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The London Film-Makers’ Co-operative was founded in 1966 and based upon the artist-led distribution centre created by Jonas Mekas and the New American Cinema Group. Both had a policy of open The Co-op asserted the significance of the British films in line with international developments, whilst surviving hand-tomouth in a series of run down buildings. The physical hardship of the organisascreens in an oblique formation. Gill Eatherley literally painted in light over extremely long exposures to shoot Hand Grenade, which runs three different edits of the material side-by-side. Light Music developed into a series of enquiries into the nature of optical soundtracks and their direct relation to the abstract image. The film can be shown in different configurations, with projectors side-by-side or facing into each other. Anthony McCall succinctly demonstrates the sculptural potential of film as a single ray of light, incidentally tracing a circle on the screen, is perceived as a conical line emanating from the projector. The beam is given physical volume in the room by use of theatrical smoke, or any other agent (such as dust) that would thicken the air to make it more apparent. More than just a film, Line Describing a Cone affirms cinema as a collective social experience. single flat screen area. This film works well in a conventional film theatre when the top left screen spills over the ceiling and the bottom right projects down over the audience. It is the same image on all three projectors, a double-exposed flickering rectangle of the projector gate sliding diagonally into and out of frame. Focus is on the projector shutter, hence the flicker. This film is ‘about’ the projector gate, the plane where the film frame is caught by the projected light beam.” William Raban, Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film catalogue, 1977 William Raban & Chris Welsby, River Yar, 1971-72, colour, sound, 35m Sally Potter, Play, 1971, b/w & colour, silent, 7m David Parsons, Mechanical Ballet, 1975, b/w, silent, 8m Chris Welsby, Wind Vane, 1972, colour, LINE DESCRIBING A CONE sound, 8m David Crosswaite, Choke, 1971, b/w & “Once I started really working with film colour, sound, 5m and feeling I was making films, making Malcolm Le Grice, Castle Two, 1968, works of media, it seemed to me a com- b/w, sound, 32m pletely natural thing to come back and back and back, to come more away from (Total running time approximately 97m) a pro-filmic event and into the process of filmmaking itself. And at the time it all boiled down to some very simple questions. In my case, and perhaps in others, the question being something like “What would a film be if it was only a film?” Carolee Schneemann and I sailed on the SS Canberra from Southampton to New York in January 1973, and when we embarked, all I had was that question. When I disembarked I already had the Malcolm Le Grice, Castle Two plan for Line Describing a Cone fullyfledged in my notebook. You could say it RIVER YAR was a mid-Atlantic film! It’s been the story of my life ever since, of course, where I’m located, where my interests “The camera points south. The landscape are, that business of “Am I English or am is an isolated frame of space – a wideI American?” So that was when I con- angle view of a tidal estuary, recorded ceived Line Describing a Cone and then I during Autumn and Spring. The camera made it in the months that followed.” holds a fixed viewpoint and marks time at Anthony McCall, interview with the rate of one frame every minute (day and night) for three weeks. The two Mark Webber, 2001 sequences Autumn and Spring, are pre“One important strategy of expanded cin- sented symmetrically on adjacent ema radically alters the spatial discrete- screens. The first Spring sunrise is ness of the audience vis-à-vis the screen recorded in real time (24 fps) for 14 minand the projector by manipulating the utes, establishing a comparative scale of projection facilities in a manner which speed for the Autumn screen, where comelevates their role to that of the perform- plete days are passing in one minute. ance itself, subordinating or eliminating Then both screens run together in stopthe role of the artist as performer. The action until the Autumn screen breaks films of Anthony McCall are the best into a 14 minute period of real time for illustration of this tendency. In Line the final sunset into darkness. Recordings Describing a Cone, the conventional pri- were made of landscape sound at specific macy of the screen is completely aban- intervals each day. Each screen has its doned in favour of the primacy of the pro- own soundtrack which mixes with the jection event. According to McCall, a other in the space of the cinema.” William Raban & Chris Welsby, NFT screen is not even mandatory: The audience is expected to move up and down, in English Independent Cinema programme and out of the beam – this film cannot be notes, 1972 fully experienced by a stationary spectator. This means that the film demands a “Chris found the location.which was an multi-perspectival viewing situation, as ex-water mill in Yarmouth on the Isle of opposed to the single-image/single-per- Wight, owned by the sons of the historian spective format of conventional films or A.J.P. Taylor. We managed to get it for an the multi-image/single-perspective for- astonishing rent of £5 a week. One of its mat of much expanded cinema. The shift upstairs windows happened to look over of image as a function of shift of per- this river estuary, it was the kind of view spective is the operative principle of the we were looking for, so it was ideal in film. External content is eliminated, and many ways. We’d worked out the concepthe entire film consists of the controlled tual model for the film, how we wanted it line of light emanating from the projec- to look as a two-screen piece, more or tor; the act of appreciating the film – i.e., less entirely in advance. We also knew ‘the process of its realisation’ – is the what camera we wanted. There was realcontent.” ly only the Bolex camera that would be Deke Dusinberre, “On Expanding suitable for filming it on. I made an elecStudio International, tric motor for firing the time-lapse shots Cinema”, November/December 1975 that was capable of giving time exposures as well as instantaneous exposures. Unknown to us of course, the first period of shooting coincided with the big coal * * * miners’ strike, in the Ted Heath governDOUBLE SCREEN FILMS ment, so the motor was redundant for most of the time; we had to shoot the film by hand. And it was quite interesting Widening the visual field increased the because we weren’t just making River opportunity for both spectacle and con- Yar, we were down there for six weeks in templation. With two 16mm projectors the autumn and three weeks again the folside-by-side, time could be frozen or lowing spring, so we were also making fractured in a more complex way by play- other work. I was doing a series of tree ing one image against another and creat- prints in a wood nearby. And we invited ing a magical space between them. Each people down to share the experience with screening became a unique event, accen- us, so Malcolm, Annabel and Gill all tuating the temporality of the cinematic came to stay.” experience. William Raban, interview with Mark Webber, 2001 River Yar is a monumental study of landscape, nature, light and the passage of time. It employs real time and time-lapse photography to document and contrast the view of a tidal estuary over two threeweek periods, in spring and autumn. The film stimulates cosmic awareness as each day is seen to have its elemental events. Sunrise brings in the light and sunset provides the ultimate fade-out. The use of different film stocks, and the depiction of twins seen in a twin-screen format, emphasises the fractured and David Crosswaite, Choke slightly disorientating view from Sally Potter’s window in Play. David Parsons’ refilming of a stunt car PLAY demonstration pulses between frames, analytically transforming the motion into “In Play, Potter filmed six children – actually, three pairs of twins – as they a visceral mid-air dance. Wind Vane was shot simultaneously by play on a sidewalk, using two cameras two cameras whose view was directed by mounted so that they recorded two conthe wind. The gentle panning makes us tiguous spaces of the sidewalk. When subtly aware of the physical space (dis- Play is screened, two projectors present the two images side by side, recreating tance) between the adjacent frames. With a rock music soundtrack, Choke, the original sidewalk space, but, of suggests pop art in its treatment of course, with the interruption of the right Piccadilly Circus at night. Multiply frame line of the left image and the left exposed and treated images mirror each frame line of the right image – that is, so that the sidewalk space is divided into other or travel across the two screens. Castle Two immediately throws the view- two filmic spaces. The cinematic division er into a state of discomfort as one tries to of the original space is emphasized by the assess the situation, and then proceeds a fact that the left image was filmed in long, obscure and perplexing indoctrina- color, the right image in black and white. tion. “Is that coming through out there?” Indeed, the division is so obvious that machinery itself which imposes this relationship. The image throughout is composed of straight lines. It need not have been.” Lis Rhodes, A Perspective on English Avant-Garde Film catalogue, 1978 when the children suddenly move from one space to the other, ‘through’ the frame lines, their originally continuous movement is transformed into cinematic magic.” Scott MacDonald, A Critical Cinema 3, 1998
“To be frank, I always felt like a loner, an outsider. I never felt part of a community of filmmakers. I was often the only female, or one of few, which didn’t help. I didn’t have a buddy thing going, which most of the men did. They also had rather different concerns, more hardedged structural concerns … I was probably more eclectic in my taste than many of the English structural filmmakers, who took an absolute prescriptive position on film. Most of them had gone to Oxford or Cambridge or some other university and were terribly theoretical. I left school at fifteen. I was more the hand-on artist and less the academic. The overriding memory of those early years is of making things on the kitchen table by myself…” Sally Potter interviewed by Scott MacDonald, A Critical Cinema 3, 1998
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membership, accepting all submissions without judgement, but the LFMC was unique in incorporating the three key aspects of artist filmmaking: production, distribution and exhibition within a single facility. Early pioneers like Len Lye, Antony Balch, Margaret Tait and John Latham had already made remarkable personal films in England, but by the mid-60s interest in “underground” film was growing. On his arrival from New York, Stephen Dwoskin demonstrated and encouraged the possibilities of experimental filmmaking and the Coop soon became a dynamic centre for the discussion, production and presentation of avant-garde film. Several key figures such as Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice, John Smith and Chris Welsby went onto become internationally celebrated. Many others, like Annabel Nicolson and the fiercely autonomous and prolific Jeff Keen, worked across the boundaries between film and performance and remain relatively unknown, or at least unseen.
tion’s struggle contributed to the rigorous, formal nature of films produced during this period. While the Structural approach dominated, informing both the interior and landscape tendencies, the British filmmakers also made significant innovations with multi-screen films and expanded cinema events, producing works whose essence was defined by their ephemerality. Many of the works fell into the netherworld between film and fine art, never really seeming at home in either cinema or gallery spaces. Shoot Shoot Shoot, a major retrospective programme and research project, will bring these extraordinary works back to life. Curated by Mark Webber with assistance from Gregory Kurcewicz and Ben Cook. Shoot Shoot Shoot is a LUX project. Funded by the Arts Council of England National Touring Programme, the British Council, bfi and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
“The first great excitement is finding the idea, making its acquaintance, and courting it through the elaborate ritual of film production. The second excitement is the moment of projection when the film becomes real and can be shared with the audience. The former enjoyment is unique and privileged; the second is not, Malcolm Le Grice, Castle One, 1966, and so long as the film exists, it is infinitely repeatable.” b/w, sound, 20m William Raban, Arts Council FilmWilliam Raban, Take Measure, 1973, colour, silent, (X)m Makers on Tour catalogue, 1980 William Raban, Diagonal, 1973, colour, HAND GRENADE sound, 6m Gill Eatherley, Hand Grenade, 1971, “Although the word ‘expanded’ cinema colour, sound, 8m Lis Rhodes, Light Music, 1975-77, b/w, has also been used for the open/gallery size/multi screen presentation of film, sound, 20m Anthony McCall, Line Describing A this ‘expansion’ (could still but) has not yet proved satisfactory – for my own Cone, 1973, b/w, silent, 30m work anyway. Whether you are dealing (Total running time approximately 93m) with a single postcard size screen or six
“… I began to forge ideas that explored the making of the work and the procedure of events and ideas unfolding in space and time. Inevitably, this led to the consideration of the filmmaking apparatus as an integral element within the construction of the film. Taken literally of course, this applies to the making of any film, but I am referring to processes that do not attempt to hide the means of production and make the technique transparent, rather the very opposite. There are many parallels in other creative fields: the improvisational aspects of modern jazz, and Exercises in Style by the wonderful French writer Raymond Queneau. These examples spring to mind as background influences upon what I see now as an essentially modernist project, in that I was attempting to assert the material aspects of making, over what was depicted. So, to turn to the camera to attempt exhaust all the possibilities of its lenses, the film transportation mechanism, the shift of the turret, hand holding or tripods mounting, as conditioning factors within the films became the challenge. The project broadened out with seemingly endless possibilities offered by the film printer, the projector, and the screen.” David Parsons, “Picture Planes”, Filmwaves No. 2, November 1997 “Several areas of interest intersect in the making of Mechanical Ballet: an interest in ‘found’ footage (relating to collage, assemblage), the manipulation of the film strip and the film frame, time and duration, projection and the screen, and the film printing process, to highlight some of the main concerns. In the early ’70s I began a series of experiments with ways of refilming and improvising new constructions with different combinations of frames. Thus new forms emerged from the found material that I had selected to use as my base material. In one work I extended the closing moments of the tail footage of a film, consisting of less than a second of flared out frames, stretching it into two minutes forty five seconds, 100 foot of film. In another I used some early documentation of time and motion studies of factory workers performing repetitive tasks on machinery. A speedometer mounted in the corner of the frame monitored the progress of their actions in relation to the time it took to perform their tasks. I found the content both disturbing and absurd and sought to exemplify this by exaggerating the action and ‘stalling’ the monitoring process by racking the film back and forth through the gate. The original material that formed the basis for Mechanical Ballet was an anonymous short reel of film of what appeared to be car crash tests. In the original these tests are carried out in a deadpan and
A GUIDE TO THE FILMS IN THE EXHIBITION “What follows is a set of instructions, necessarily incomplete, for the construction, necessarily impossible, of a mosaic. Each instruction must lead to the screen, the tomb and temple in which the mosaic grows. The instructions are fractured but not frivolous. They are no more than clues to the films which lust for freedom and re-illumination with, by and of the cinema. What follows is not truth, only evidence. The explanation is in the projection and the perception.” Simon Hartog, 1968 “It is often difficult for a venue organiser/programmer to determine from written description what an individual or group of film-makers work is ‘about’, from where it comes, to what or whom it is addressing itself. Equally, it is difficult for a film-maker to provide such information from within the pages of a catalogue when for many, including myself, the entire project or the area into which one’s work energy is concentrated, is intent on clarifying these kind of questions. The films outside of such a situation become more or less dead objects, the residue (though hopefully a determined residue) of such an all-embracing pursuit.” Mike Leggett, 1980
“The most important thing still is to let oneself get into the film one is watching, to stop fighting it, to stop feeling the need to object during the process of experience, or rather, to object, fight it, but overcome each moment again, to keep letting oneself overcome one’s difficulties, to then slide into it (one can always Anthony McCall, Line Describing A Cone demolish the experience afterwards anyway, so what’s the hurry?).” CASTLE ONE ten-foot screens, the problems are basiPeter Gidal, c.1970-71 cally the same – to try to establish a more “The light bulb was a Brechtian device to positively dialectical relationship with * * * make the spectator aware of himself. I the audience. I am concerned (like many don’t like to think of an audience in the others) with this balance between the EXPANDED CINEMA mass, but of the individual observer and audience and the film – and the noetic his behaviour. What he goes through problems involved.” Gill Eatherley, 2nd International British filmmakers led a drive beyond the while he watches is what the film is screen and the theatre, and their innova- about. I’m interested in the way the indi- Avant-Garde Film Festival programme tions in expanded cinema inevitably took vidual constructs variety from his percep- notes, 1973 the work into galleries. After questioning tual intake.” Malcolm Le Grice, Films and “Malcolm Le Grice helped me with Hand the role of the spectator, they began to Grenade. First of all I did these stills, the examine the light beam, its volume and Filming, February 1971 chairs traced with light. And then I wantpresence in the room. “… totally Kafkaesque, but also filmical- ed it to all move, to be in motion, so we ly completely different from anyone else In a step towards later complex projection because of the rawness. The Americans started to use 16mm. We shot only a hunpieces, for Castle One, Malcolm Le Grice are always talking about ‘rawness’, but dred feet on black and white. It took ages, hung a light bulb in front of the screen. Its it’s never raw. When the English talk actually, because it’s frame by frame. We intermittent flashing bleaches out the about ‘raw’, they don’t just talk about it, shot it in pitch dark, and then we took it image, illuminates the audience and lays it really is raw – it’s grey, it’s rainy, it’s to the Co-op and spent ages printing it all bare the conditions of the traditional grainy, you can hardly see what’s there. out on the printer there. This is how I first got involved with the Co-op.” screening arrangement. The material really is there at the same Gill Eatherley, interview with Mark Take Measure, by William Raban, visual- time as the image. With the Germans, it’s ly measures a dimension of the space as a high-class image of material, optically Webber, 2001 the filmstrip is physically stretched reproduced and glossy. The Americans LIGHT MUSIC between projector and screen. To make are half-way there, but the English stuff Diagonal, he directly filmed into the pro- looked like it really was home-made, artijector gate and presents the same flicker- sanal, and yet amazingly structured. And “Lis Rhodes has conducted a thorough ing footage in dialogue across three I certainly thought Castle One was the investigation into the relationship between the shapes and rhythms of lines most powerful film I’d seen, ever…” and their tonality when printed as sound. Peter Gidal, interview with Mark Her work Light Music is in a series of Webber, 2001 ‘moveable sections’. The film does not “Malcolm said to me “Ideally in this film have a rigid pattern of sequences, and the there should be a real light bulb hanging final length is variable, within one-hour duration. The imagery is restricted to next to the screen, but that’s not possible.” And I said “It’s not possible to hang lines of horizontal bars across the screen: there is variety in the spacing (frequena light bulb?” He said “Well, I don’t see cy), their thickness (amplitude), and their how we could possibly do this.” I said colour and density (tone). One section “Well the only question is how do we turn was filmed from a video monitor that proit on and off at the right moments? … Are you able to do that as a live perform- duced line patterns on the screen that varance?” He looked at me like the world ied according to sound signals generated by an oscillator; so initially it is the sound was going to end! And I said “The switch which produces the image. Taking this will be there.”” filmed material to the printing stage, the Jack Moore, interview with Mark same lines that produced the picture are Webber, 2001 printed onto the optical soundtrack edge of the film: the picture thus produces the TAKE MEASURE sound. Other material was shot from a “The thing that strikes me going into a rostrum camera filming black and white cinema, because it is such a strange space grids, and here again at the printing stage, and it’s organized to allow you to get the picture is printed onto the film soundenveloped by the whole illusion of film, track. Sometimes the picture ‘zooms’ in when you try and think of it in terms of on the grid, so that you actually ‘hear’ the real dimensions it becomes very difficult. zoom, or more precisely, you hear an The idea of a sixty foot throw or a hun- aural equivalent to the screen image. This dred foot throw from the projector to the equivalence cannot be perfect, because screen just doesn’t enter into the equa- the soundtrack reproduces the frame lines tion. So I thought the idea of making a that you don’t see, and the film passes at piece that made that distance between the even speed over the projector sound scanprojector and the screen more tangible ner, but intermittently through the picture gate. Lis Rhodes avoids rigid scoring prowas quite an interesting thing to do.” William Raban, interview with Mark cedures for scripting her films. This work may be experienced (and was perhaps Webber, 2001 conceived) as having a musical form, but “Take Measure is usually the shortest of the process of composition depends on my films, measuring in feet that intangi- various chance operations, and upon the ble space separating screen from projec- intervention of the filmmaker upon the tor box (which is counted on the screen film and film machinery. This is consisby the image of a film synchronizer). tent with the presentation where the film Instead of being fed into the projector does not crystallize into one finished from a reel, the film is strung between form. This is a strong work, possessing projector and screen. When the film infinite variety within a tightly controlled starts, the film snakes backwards through framework.” William Raban, Perspectives on the audience as it is consumed by the proBritish Avant-Garde Film catalogue, jector.” William Raban, Perspectives on 1977 British Avant-Garde Film catalogue, “The film is not complete as a totality; it 1977 could well be different and still achieve its purpose of exploring the possibilities DIAGONAL of optical sound. It is as much about “Diagonal is a film for three projectors, sound as it is about image; their relationthough the diagonally arranged projector ship is necessarily dependent as the optibeams need not be contained within a cal soundtrack ‘makes’ the music. It is the
somewhat cumbersome manner. Reworked into a two-screen film and divorced from their original context they take on both a sinister and humorous quality. Using similar techniques to the aforementioned films, the repetitive refilming of the original footage in short sections emphasised the process of film projection. Somewhat like a child’s game of two steps forward and one back, the viewer is made aware of the staggered progress of the film through the gate. In sharp contrast to the almost stroboscopic flicker of the rapid movement of the frames that alternate in small increments of light and dark exposures, the image takes on new meanings; the distorted reality of two heavy objects (the cars, one on each of the screens) ‘dancing’ lightly in space.” David Parsons, 2002
In recent years, my activities as an independent curator or programmer of ‘avant-garde’ film and video have put me into contact with many individuals and organisations around the world. Many people would ask me about the London Co-op and British filmmakers and I was embarrassed to have to admit that I didn’t know much about the cinematic heritage of this country. The constant enquiries about British work made it clear that there was a sustained interest in, and demand for, the films made in and around the London Film-Makers’ Co-op. Gregory Kurcewicz should be credited with instigating the present project in 1999. Since then it just grew and grew. During the early stages of research, the screenings organised by Felicity Sparrow as part of the Whitechapel’s exhibition “Live In Your Head” provided a valuable opportunity to survey the field. At one of those screenings I met Peter Mudie, who had been working on an as-yet-unpublished history of the Co-op. Peter generously gave me an early draft of his manuscript, giving me access to his years of research and interpretation. David Curtis gave me hours of his time and loaned me his archive of documentation from the period (which is now available at the AHRB Study Centre). Meanwhile, I was watching every British film the Lux held that was made during this period and going direct to filmmakers to discover and see the obscurities and lost gems. This project was conceived not only as another historical film programme. The elements of preservation and documentation were very important from the beginning. Many new prints, sound masters and internegatives have been made, a publication is planned and a website is being constructed as an online research resource. In parallel to the exhibition, a documentary on the Co-op is being made by John Wyver and Illuminations. AGAINST INTERPRETATION It is not my intention to argue the historical importance of these works, nor do I wish to set up a ‘canon’ of films by which this period should be measured. I see my role more that of an excavator, looking around, finding something interesting and getting it out there so people can see it and make their own minds up. I have tried to appear transparent, but inevitably the choice of films in such an exhibition must be informed to some extent by personal taste. I regret that many works have been left out despite attempts to be objective and inclusive. I was born in 1970 on the day the First International Underground Film Festival began at the NFT. I hope that I have brought a different perspective on a period that has not recently been reviewed. FILM AS FILM It’s refreshing, in this time of new media feeding frenzy, to be reminded of the wondrous virtues of film, a medium that is often now seen as an archaic, old-fashioned and outdated. Here are works made on film, by artists, because no other medium suits their purpose. Beneath the surface of each is an underlying ‘human-ness’, an inherent tactility and transience. You can feel these films, that each one has been crafted and fashioned into form by hand. The unique characteristics and possibilities of film are brought forward during the realisation of the work, where the artistic process begins at the inception of an idea and goes right through to its projection. THE PRESENT SITUATION That Shoot Shoot Shoot should finally become visible in London at this time seems incredible timely, so much so that the project was almost halted just as it began to move into the final planning stages. The closure of the Lux Centre, which managed the exhibition, in November 2001 would have ended Shoot Shoot Shoot if it were not for the foolhardy persistence of Ben Cook and myself. The events that led up to the Lux crisis are indicative of the lack of appropriate planning, support and resources allocated to artists’ film and video in London (or the UK as a whole) in recent years. Despite early commitment of substantial funding from the Arts Council of England’s National Touring Programme and the British Council, for which I am truly grateful, this project (and others like it) has been hindered by the lack of institutional or organisational support. Perhaps the current review led by the London funding agencies will improve matters, and in the meantime the gap is being filled by independent screenings. Maybe the interest shown in experimental film by a new generation will impel the major arts bodies to invest in the venues, the prints and the production facilities that make up this unique ‘essential’ cinema. THE ABSENT CATALOGUE Much of the work done over the past two years has been towards assembling materials for a publication and the launch of the film programme was the logical opportunity to publish this research. A vast quantity of archival documentation has been gathered, and many new interviews have been conducted. Essays have been commissioned from David Curtis, Barry Miles, Michael O’Pray and Al Rees. Lack of funds have forced us to sacrifice the book in favour of film print costs. The proposed catalogue will now be compiled as a separate book, to be completed when funds become available. It will hopefully benefit form the new insight and understanding of the works which should come with the revival and re-viewing of the films and the discussions they will provoke. In the meantime, I hope this special broadsheet will provide some background information for the screenings. I am still collecting photos, stills, documentation and information, so please get in touch if you might be able to help.
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“At that time, the automatic gyros on sailboats were run from a wind vane that was attached through a series of mechanical devices to the rudder. The wind vane actually set itself to the wind and you adjusted all the gear and that then steered the boat in the particular orientation to the wind. On various sailing trips, I’d been looking at this thing thinking, “Hmm, that’s really interesting … I wonder if I could set a camera on something like that?” Because, for me the idea of a sailboat travelling from A to B was an interesting sort of metaphor for the way that people interacted with nature. In sailing, as you may know if you’ve done it, you can’t just go from A to B, you have to adjust everything to which way the tide is going, which way the wind’s going and so on and so forth. Hopefully, eventually, you would get to B but, really, in between time there would have been all sorts of other events that would affect that: speed of tides, speed of wind, no wind, etc. So that seemed to me to be an interesting metaphor, so then I started building wind vanes and attaching cameras to them…” Chris Welsby, interview with Mark Webber, 2001 “The spatial exigencies of twin-screen projection become of primary importance in this film because the adjacency of the screen images is related to the adjacency of the filming technique: two cameras were placed about 50 feet apart on tripods which included wind vane attachments, so that the wind direction and speed determined the direction and speed of the pans of the two freely panning cameras. The landscape images are more or less coincident, and the attempt by the spectator to visually conjoin the two spaces (already conjoined on the screen) sets up the primary tension of this film. As the cameras pan, one expects an overlap between the screens (from one to another) but gets only overlap in the screens (when they point to the same object). The adjacency of the two spaces is constantly shifting from (almost) complete similarity of field to complete dissimilarity. And within the dissimilarity of space can be more or less contiguous. The shrewd choice of a representational image which exploits the twin-screen format is Welsby’s strength.” Deke Dusinberre, “On Expanding Cinema”, Studio International, November/December 1975 infused Swinging London with a fresh “I felt really high with all these people around. I was kind of a provincial film subversive edge. student and the youngest of everyone and Made independently on 35mm, in collab- there were fashion photographers, David oration with William Burroughs, Towers Larcher who was very glamorous, there Open Fire is rarely considered in histo- was Simon Hartog who was kind of intelries of avant-garde film, despite its experiments in form and representation. It combines strobe cutting, flicker, degraded imagery and hand-painted film to create a visual equivalent to the author’s narration. Gloucester Road Groove, featuring Simon Hartog and David Larcher, is a spirited celebration of youthful exuberance, the excitement of shooting with a movie camera. Jeff Keen’s vision is a uniquely British post-war accumulation of art history, comic books, old Hollywood and new collage. Positioned between happenings and music hall, he performs dada actions in the “theatre of the brain”. Marvo Movie is just one of countless works that mix live action with animation, but is notable for its concrete sound by Co-op co-founder Bob Cobbing. Speak, with hypnotic flashing discs and relentless noise track, anticipated many of the anti-illusionist arguments that the Co-op later embodied. The film was made in 1962, but its advanced radical nature made it largely unknown until later screenings at Better Books brought Latham into contact with like-minded contemporaries. In Dirty, Dwoskin accentuates the dirt and scratches on the film’s surface while interrogating the erotic imagery through refilming. The systematic cutting of Stuart Pound’s film, and its cyclical soundtrack, derives from a mathematical process that condenses a feature length work (Clocktime I-IV) into a short ‘trailer’. Soul in a White Room is a subtle piece of Anthony Balch, Towers Open Fire social commentary by Simon Hartog, an early Co-op activist with a strong politilectual … all sorts of people, wonderful cal conscience. Peter Gidal questions illusory depth and women that would come around, friends, representation through focal length, edit- and I was always in awe of them and we used to go out to restaurants and that was ing and (seeming) repetition in Hall. Reign of the Vampire, from Le Grice’s all a very big thing for me. So one paranoiac How to Screw the C.I.A., or evening we went to Dino’s in Gloucester How to Screw the C.I.A.? series, takes the Road and I took the camera. I think I’d hard line in subversion. Familiar “threat- been using it all day, I just liked cameras ening” signifiers, pornography and and I filmed us going to eat, and we came footage from his other films is overlaid back again, and I still kept filming! with travelling mattes, united with a loop Gloucester Road was kind of cosmopolisoundtrack, to form a relentless assault. tan, late at night… it was exotic, very exotic, it wasn’t your dour kind of thing Antony Balch, Towers Open Fire, 1963, shot at 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock, Gloucester Road was buzzing.” b/w, sound, 16m Jonathan Langran, interview with Jonathan Langran, Gloucester Road Mark Webber, 2002 Groove, 1968, b/w, silent, 2m Jeff Keen, Marvo Movie, 1967, colour, MARVO MOVIE sound, 5m John Latham, Speak, 1962, colour, “Movie wizard initiates shatterbrain sound, 11m Stephen Dwoskin, Dirty, 1965-67, b/w, experiment – Eeeow! – the fastest movie film alive – at 24 or 16fps even the mind sound, 10m Stuart Pound, Clocktime Trailer, 1972, trembles – splice up sequence 2 – flix unlimited, and inside yr very head the colour, sound, 7m Simon Hartog, Soul In A White Room, images explode – last years models new houses & such terrific death scenes while 1968, colour, sound, 3.5m Peter Gidal, Hall, 1968-69, b/w, sound, the time and space operator attacks the brain via the optic nerve – will the opera10m Malcolm Le Grice, Reign Of The tion succeed – will the white saint reach in time the staircase now alive with blood Vampire, 1970, b/w, sound, 11m – only time will tell says the movie mas(Total running time approximately 75m) ter – meanwhile deep inside the space museum…” placed a contact mike on the floor to pick up the beat of a motor (rhythm) driving a circular saw (musical note) while it was being used to saw up books (percussion and bending note). The film reaches a tremendous climax as the increasingly
“A time truncation film trailer for the rather long film called Clocktime. Film made as a totally systematic stream of hitherto unrelated events welded together
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magic. It possesses this sense in its ability to capture life; to capture movement and to fracture time and space. The main characteristics of magic are its indirect reference to the culture, and to the past and its derivation from very specific emotional experiences. Magic’s base is those emotional experiences where the truth of the experience is not revealed by reasoning, but by the interplay of these emotions on the individual human…” Simon Hartog & Stephen Dwoskin, “New Cinema”, Counter Culture: The Creation of an Alternative Society, 1969 “Soul in a White Room was filmed by Simon Hartog around autumn 1968. Music on the soundtrack is “Cousin Jane” by The Troggs. The man is Omar DiopBlondin, the woman I don’t recall her name. Omar was a student active in 1968 during “les evenement de Mai et de Juin” at the Faculte de Nanterre, Universite de Paris. Around this time, Godard was in London shooting Sympathy for the Devil / One Plus One with the Stones and Omar was here for that too, appearing with Frankie Y (Frankie Dymon) and the other Black Panthers in London ... maybe Michael X too. After returning to Senegal, Omar was imprisoned and killed in custody in ’71 or ’72. I believe his fate is well known to the Senegalese people.” Jonathan Langran, interview with Mark Webber, 2002
“Hall manages, in its ten minutes, to put our perception to a rather strenuous test. Gidal will hold a static shot for quite a long time, and then make very quick cuts to objects seen at closer range. There is just a hallway and a room partially visible beyond, pictures (one of Godard) on a wall, fruit on a table, and so forth. The commonplace is rendered almost monotonous as we become increasingly familiar with it from a fixed and sustained viewpoint, and then we are disoriented by the closer cuts and also by the sudden prolonged ringing of an alarm. But even at the point of abrupt disorientation we remain conscious of the manipulation applied.” Gordon Gow, “Focus on 16mm”, Films and Filming, August 1971 “Demystified reaction by the viewer to a demystified situation; a cut in space and an interruption of duration through (obvious) jumpcut editing within a strictly defined space. Manipulation of response and awareness thereof: through repetition and duration of image. Film situation as structured, as recorrective mechanism. (Notes from 1969) Still utilizing at that time potent (signifying, overloaded) representations. (1972)” Peter Gidal, London Film-makers’ Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1974 “In Hall, extremely stable, normally reproduced objects are given clear from the beginning, the editing, moreover, reducing the distance from which they are seen, cutting in to show and to detail them, repetition then undercutting their simple identification; the second time around, a bowl of fruit cannot be seen as a bowl of fruit, but must be seen as an image in a film process, detached from any unproblematic illusion of presence, as a production in the film, a mark of the presence of that.” Stephen Heath, “Repetition Time”, Wide Angle, 1978
harsh whine of the electric saw combines with the frenetic sequence of images and flashes of light.” John A. Walker, John Latham – The Incidental Person – His Art and Ideas, 1995
“Dirty is remarkable for its sensuousness, created partly by the use of rephotography which enables the filmmaker a second stage of response to the two girls he was filming, partly by the caressing style of camera movement and partly by the gradual increase of dirt on the film itself, increasing the tactile connotations generated by rephotography. The spontaneity of Dwoskin’s response to the girls’ sensual play is matched by the spontaneity of his response to the film of their play. The rhythms of the girls’ movements are blended with the rhythms of the primary and secondary stage camera movements and these rhythms relate to the steady pulse emanating from the center of the image as a result of the different projector and camera speeds during rephotography. The soundtrack successfully prevents the awareness of audience noise (the inevitable distraction of silent cinema) by filling the aural space, but not drawing attention to itself. You tend not to notice it after a while and can therefore concentrate on what is most importantly a visual-feel film.” John Du Cane, Time Out, 1971 “The refilming enabled the actions of the two girls to be emphasized to convey the tension and beauty of such a simple and emphatic gesture as a hand reaching out: frozen, and then moving slowly, then freezing, then moving again, and all the while creating tension and space before the contact. The refilming was done on a small projector and this enabled me to capture the pulsing (cycles) of the projector light, which gave off a throbbing rhythm throughout, and increased the mood of sensuality.” Stephen Dwoskin, Film Is…, 1975
into a colour interchange frame i.e. image (1), image (2), image (3)… repeat time cycle. 6 frames, 1/4 second, then images move further along their original time base; a very linear film.” London Film-Makers’ Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1977 “I wasn’t particularly interested in making films about poetry but films that had got quite a strong sexual charge. For instance, in Clocktime Trailer there’s a woman in it who used to work for the Other Cinema years ago – Julia Meadows. I was absolutely fascinated with her, it was almost like having sex through the lens of the camera. I have now seen Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, but I’d not seen that at the time. It came out about 1960, here was such a hoo-hah about it and I was only about 16. Subsequently when I saw it I was: “Oh my god”. I could see how I was a real menace!” Stuart Pound, interview with Mark Webber, 2001
“Choke was made from 8mm footage that I had blown up to 16mm. It was colour film I took of the Coca-Cola sign in Piccadilly Circus, which is now vastly different. I think that it was the fact that this expanded film thing was happening, and Malcolm would’ve said, “Well, aren’t you going to make any double screen films, then?” and I said “Can do, yeah”! I just had this idea of using this image that I had, and again started painstakingly sello-taping little cuttings onto film so it tracked across the screen in certain parts. I must have been an absolute glutton for punishment at the time.” David Crosswaite, interview with Mark Webber, 2001 “… But nevertheless you get characters like Crosswaite, whose films I find absolutely magical, I think they’re the most seminal works of the whole Co-op period. He certainly didn’t engage in the arguments that were going on, he stood aloof from it. In fact he would the erode attempts of that hierarchical thing, his presence eroded it. He never really engaged in the theoretical arguments, the polemics, at all, but nevertheless he produced the most seminal, the most beautiful work probably of the period. He certainly wasn’t excluded, and he was always there to deflate this idea of exclusivity. He refuses to engage. He would just say, “Here’s my film” … and yet they are beautifully polemical, they’re just extraordinary pieces or work. Roger Hammond, interview with Mark Webber, 2001
SOUL IN A WHITE ROOM
“Films are not bombs. No cultural object, as such, can have such a direct and measurable effect on the physical universe. Film works in the more ambiguous sphere of art and ideas. It cannot change the world, but it can change those who can change it. Film makes use of values that exist within a culture, and a society’s culture is more pervasive than its politics. The alteration, or even the questioning of existing value is the alteration of society. The established cultural hierarchy maintains itself by protecting and enforcing the ideas that keep it in power. Anything that attacks, questions, or provides new values is a threat. The culture allows only that which will not challenge its assumptions; everything else must be forced underground. Film, as a cultural and social activity, contains within itself a potential for change. Besides the great reporting and recording qualities of film, which provide it with a direct reference to the culture, it also provides the sense of
REIGN OF THE VAMPIRE
“It was about trying to get a mental position which defied the way in which the then-C.I.A. was kind of intervening in the world. But it was more, not a joke, but an icon title. I suppose it said to me and to other people, “Make your barb against the C.I.A.” A lot of my early work, all that aggressive work, has a political paranoia about it: the idea that there are hidden forces of the military-industrial establishment, which are manipulating us
“This film continues the theme of the military/industrial complex and its psychological impact upon the individual that I began with Castle One. Like Castle One, much use is made of newsreel montage, although with entirely different material. The film is more evidently thematic, but still relies on formal devices – building up to a fast barrage of images (the two screens further split – to give 4 separate images at once for one sequence). The images repeat themselves in different sequential relationships and certain key images emerge both in the soundtrack and the visual. The alienation of the viewer’s involvement does not occur as often in this film as in Castle One, but the concern with the viewer’s experience of his present location still determines the structure of certain passages in the film.” Malcolm Le Grice, London FilmMakers’ Co-operative catalogue, 1968
Simon Hartog, Soul in a White Room
TOWERS OPEN FIRE
“Towers Open Fire is a straight-forward attempt to find a cinematic equivalent for William Burroughs’ writing: a collage of all the key themes and situations in the books, accompanied by a Burroughs soundtrack narration. Society crumbles as the Stock Exchange crashes, members of the Board are raygun-zapped in their own boardroom, and a commando in the orgasm attack leaps through a window and decimates a family photo collection… Meanwhile, the liberated individual acts: Balch himself masturbates (“silver arrow through the night…”), Burroughs as the junkie (his long-standing metaphor for the capitalist supplyand-demand situation) breaks on through to the hallucinatory world of Brion Gysin Dream Machines. Balch lets us stare into the Dream Machines, finding faces to match our own. “Anything that can be done chemically can be done by other means.” So the film is implicitly a challenge to its audience. But we’re playing with indefinables that we don’t really understand yet, and so Mikey Portman’s music-hall finale is interrupted by science-fiction attack from the skies, as lost boardroom reports drift through the countryside…” Tony Rayns, “Interview with Antony Balch”, Cinema Rising No.1, April 1972
Ray Durgnat, London Film-Makers’ Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1968 “I was never part of the early 70s scene among the independent filmmakers – very much anti-American, antiHollywood. ‘Industrial Cinema’ they used to call it, which is true, but I never felt that antipathy towards commercial cinema. It was awful being a fucking misfit, I can tell you. I’d done my footsoldiering for the communist party and everything in those days – factory gates and all that shit, “ban the bomb”… So by the time of 1970, I’d got out of that. As for sexual liberation, I’d been happily married! And the drug scene didn’t mean anything to me because I’m puritanical. I’m a misfit.” Jeff Keen, interview with Mark Webber, 2001
“Le Grice’s work induces the observer to participate by making him reflect critically not only on the formal properties of film but also on the complex ways in which he perceives that film within the limitations of the environment of its projection and the limitations created by his own past experience. A useful formulaMark Webber tion of how this sort of feedback occurs is firstname.lastname@example.org contained in the notion of ‘perceptual thresholds’. Briefly, a perceptual threshold is demarcation point between what is consciously and what is pre-consciously perceived. The threshold at which one is able to become conscious of external stimuli is a variable that depends on the speed with which the information is being projected, the emotional charge it contains and the general context within which that information is presented. This explains Le Grice’s continuing use of devices such as subliminal flicker and the looped repetition of sequences in a staggered series of changing relationships.” John Du Cane, Time Out, 1977 * * *
As equipment became available for little cost, avant-garde film flourished in mid60s counter-culture. Early screenings at Better Books and the Arts Lab provided a vital focus for a new movement that
“Latham’s second attack on the cinema. Not since Len Lye’s films in the thirties has England produced such a brilliant example of animated abstraction. Speak is animated in time rather than space. It is an exploration in the possibilities of a circle which speaks in colour with blinding volume. Speak burns its way directly into the brain. It is one of the few films about which it can truly be said, “it will live in your mind.”” Ray Durgnat, London Film-Makers’ “Installations shattered – Personnel decimated – Board Books destroyed – Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1968 Electronic waves of resistance sweeping through mind screens of the earth – The “In 1966 Pink Floyd were playing their message of Total Resistance on short free-form, experimental rock at the wave of the world – This is war to exter- Talbot Road Tabernacle (a church hall), mination – Shift linguals – Cut word lines Powis Square, Notting Hill Gate. On sev– Vibrate tourists – Free doorways – eral occasions, Latham projected his film Photo falling – Word falling – Break Speak as the group played. Since the film through in grey room – Calling Partisans had a powerful flicker effect, the result was equivalent to strobe lighting. Film of all nations – Towers, open fire” William Burroughs, Nova Express, and music ran in parallel – there was no planned synchronization. Thinking to 1964 combine movie and music more systematically, Latham asked Pink Floyd to supGLOUCESTER ROAD ply a soundtrack. The band agreed and a GROOVE recording session took place. The artist “A film for children and savages, easily explained that he wanted music that understood, non didactic fantasies. Urban would take account of the strong, rhythlandscapes…Strolling single frames.” mical pulse of the film. This the acid rock Jonathan Langran, London Film- group proved unable or unwilling to proMakers’ Co-operative distribution cata- vide; consequently, the association was logue, 1977 terminated. A soundtrack was eventually added to one print of Speak: Latham
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from within that power. Obviously, they were – people were having their telephones tapped though I don’t suppose for one minute that my telephone was interesting enough to tap. Reign of the Vampire is that kind of paranoid film. It’s a hovercraft that comes in, but it could easily be a tank with the army getting out of it … The idea of a military force that can sneak in somewhere, and the computer images. Threshold is in similar territory, about the borders and so on but very abstract. It’s about that hidden sense of force.” Malcolm Le Grice, interview with Mark Webber, 2001 “The film is made from six loops in pairs (simple superimposition, but made by printing through both loops together rather than in two runs following each other, the effect of this is largely to eliminate the transparent aspect of superimposition). In content, the film comes near to being a synthesis of the How to Screw the C.I.A. or How to Screw the C.I.A.? series; it draws on pieces of film from the other films, and combines these with the most ‘disturbing’ of the images which I have collected. It also relates to the ‘dream’/fluid association sequence in Castle Two; it is a kind of on-going under-consciousness which repeats and does not resolve into any semantic consequence. One of the factors of the use of the loop, which interests me particularly, is the way in which the viewer’s awareness undergoes a gradual transformation from the semantic/associative to the abstract/formal, even though the ‘information’ undergoes only limited change. The sound has a similar kind of loop/repetition structure.” Malcolm Le Grice, How to Screw the C.I.A. or How to Screw the C.I.A.? programme notes, 1970 * * * an idea; while Window Box exploits the viewer’s anticipation of camera movement and shrewdly transforms a seemingly conventional viewpoint, the permanence of the cinematic frame is the focus of Tautology’s brief enquiry. By translating footage across different gauges, Crosswaite and Le Grice explore variations in film formats: Film No. 1 uses permutations and combinations of unsplit 8mm, while Little Dog for Roger directly prints 9.5mm home movies onto 16mm stock. In Key, Gidal plays on the ambiguity of an image to challenge and refute the observer’s interpretation of it, while intensifying disorientation through his manipulation of the soundtrack. Du Cane’s Zoom Lapse comprises dense multiple overlays of imagery, vibrating the moment, while Eatherley’s Deck rephotographs a reel of 8mm film, which undergoes a mysterious transformation through refilming, colour changing and printing.
certain relations between segments, between what the camera is aimed at and the way that ‘image’ is presented. The dialectic of the film is established in that space of tension between materialist flatness, grain, light, movement, and the supposed reality that is represented. Consequently, a continual attempt to destroy the illusion is necessary. In Structural/Materialist film, the in/film (not in/frame) and film/viewer material relations, and the relations of the film’s structure, are primary to any representational content. The structuring aspects and the attempt to decipher the structure and anticipate/recorrect it, to clarify and analyze the production-process of the specific image at any specific moment, are the root concern of Structural/Materialist film. The specific construct of each specific film is not the relevant point; one must beware not to let the construct, the shape, take the place of the ‘story’ in narrative film. Then one would merely be substituting one hierarchy for another within the same system, a formalism for what is traditionally called content. This is an absolutely crucial point.” Peter Gidal, “Theory and Definition of Structural/Materialist Film”, Structural Film Anthology, 1976
FILM NO. 1
“Film No. 1 is a ten minute loop film. The systems of superimposed loops are mathematically interrelated in a complex manner. The starting and cut-off points for each loop are not clearly exposed, but through repetitions of sequences in different colours, in different material realities (i.e. negative, positive, bas-relief, neg/pos overlay) yet in a constant rhythm (both visually and on the soundtrack hum), one is manipulated to attempt to work out the system-structure. One relates to the repetitions in such a way that one concentrates on working out the serial formula while visually experiencing (and enjoying) the film at the same time. One of the superimposed loops is made of alternating mattes, so that the screen is broken up into four more or less equal rectangles of which, at any one moment, two or three are blocked out (matted). The matte-positioning is rhythmically structured, thus allowing each of the two represented images to flickeringly appear in only one frame-corner at a time. This rhythm powerfully strengthens the film’s existence as selective reality manipulated by the filmmaker and exposed as such. The mattes are slightly ‘off’; there is no perfect mechanical fit, so that the process of the physical matteconstruction by the filmmaker is constantly noticeable, as one matte (at times of different hue or different colour) blends over the edge of the matte next to it (horizontally or vertically). The film deals with permutations of material, in a prescribed manner, but one by no means necessary or logical (except within the film’s own constructed system/serial). The process of looping a given image is already using film for its structural and abstract power rather than for a conventional narrative or ‘content’. But it is the superimposition of the black mattes which gives the film its extremely rich texture, and which separates it from so
STRUCTURAL / MATERIALIST
The enquiry into the material of film as film itself was an essential characteristic of the Co-op’s output. These non- and anti- narrative concerns were fundamentally argued by the group’s principal practising theorists Malcolm Le Grice and Peter Gidal. In explaining their (quite different) ideas in some erudite but necessarily dense texts Le Grice and Gidal have in some ways contributed to misunderstandings of this significant tendency in the British avant-garde. (For example, It is not the case, as is often proposed, that films were made to justify their theories.) Le Grice was instrumental in acquiring, installing and operating the equipment at the Co-op workshop that afforded filmmakers the hands-on opportunity to investigate the film medium. His own work developed through direct processing, printing and projection, providing an understanding of the material with which he could examine filmic time through duration, while touching on spectacle and narrative. By contrast, Gidal’s cool, oppositional stance was refined to refute narrative and representation, denying illusion and manipulation though visual codes. His uncompromising position resists all expectations of cinema, even modernist formalism and abstraction. The artistic and theoretical relationship of these two poles of the British avant-garde, who were united in opposing ‘dominant cinema’, is a complex set of divergences and intersections. Originally intended as a test strip, the first film produced at the Dairy on the Co-op step-printer was Shepherd’s Bush, in which an obscure loop of abstract footage relentlessly advances from dark to light. The two short films by Roger Hammond and Mike Dunford concisely encapsulate
“Shepherd’s Bush was a revelation. It was both true film notion and demonstrated an ingenious association with the filmprocess. It is the procedure and conclusion of a piece of film logic using a brilliantly simple device; the manipulation of the light source in the Film Co-op printer such that a series of transformations are effected on a loop of film material. From the start Mike Leggett adopts a relational perspective according to which it is neither the elements or the emergent whole but the relations between the elements (transformations) that become primary through the use of logical procedure. All of Mike Leggett’s films call for special effort from the audience, and a passive audience expecting to be manipulated will indeed find them difficult for they seek a unique correspondence; one that calls for real attention, interaction, and anticipation/correction, a change for the audience from being a voyeur to being that of a participant.” Roger Hammond, Window Box, 1971, Roger Hammond, London Filmb/w, silent, 3m (18fps) Makers Co-operative distribution cataMike Leggett, Shepherd’s Bush, 1971, logue supplement, 1972 b/w, sound, 15m David Crosswaite, Film No. 1, 1971, “The process of film-making should colour, sound, 10m emphasise the imaginative, and the conMike Dunford, Tautology, 1973, b/w, tact between film-maker and spectator silent, 5m should become more direct. Shepherd’s Peter Gidal, Key, 1968, colour, sound, Bush was made through a process con10m trary to the generally accepted method of John Du Cane, Zoom Lapse, 1975, making a film. It was without a script, colour, silent, 15m without a camera, without the complicatMalcolm Le Grice, Little Dog For Roger, ed route through task delegation. The 1967, b/w, sound, 13m entity of the film was conceived through Gill Eatherley, Deck, 1971, colour, the reappraisal of a Debrie Matipo stepsound, 13m contact printer. Designed such that with precise control of the light reaching the (Total running time approximately 81m) print stock after having passed through filters, aperture band and the negative, it was possible to demonstrate the gradual way in which the projection screen could WINDOW BOX turn from black to white. First, a suitable “In the small masterpiece Window Box, image on an existing piece of positive Hammond sets up a situation which is mystified in its presentation, and yet at the same time demands of (and allows) the viewer to demystify the given visual impulses. The situation presented includes thus within its own premises the objective factors which determine the possibility and probability of successful analysis. The criteria one uses to evaluate, interpret, are secondary to this conceptually-determined process of working out what is. We are taken into a post-logical empiricism which realizes the sensual strength of illusion which at the same time using precisely that to refer to precision of information. The opposite of Cartesian in its in-built negation of any aspect outside of the given system. Hammond is non-atomistic, non-referential within a specific, set-up, and defined closed system. Thus, a pure attitude. Hammond is purifying the conceptual and non-psychological aspect of his work Mike Leggett, Shepherd’s Bush to the point where it increasingly represents his calculable mental system: the stock was found with which to produce a nonreferential structural obligation. He master negative. The shot was only ten does not create a whole system, however; seconds in length but contained a range of tones from one end of the grey scale to rather, he deciphers one.” Peter Gidal, “Directory of UK the other. It was loaded into the printer as Independent Film-Makers”, Cinema a loop, and subsequently a print which repeated the action was made from the Rising No. 1, April 1972 negative. Only part of the viewer’s atten“Roger Hammond’s movies are short tion should be taken with the perception studies of apparently simple of the figurative image on the screen. It subjects…they induce a tight awareness should however, be dynamic enough to of how these relations can be radically warrant careful inspection should the transformed by subtle shifts in film viewer’s attention turn to it. A thirtyprocess; shifts of light value, angle, minute version was made first, but on movement, framing, etc… The illusions viewing was judged too long, so for the of cinema as they bend our conscious- next version half this length was judged ness, become the focus of our attention. correct. A soundtrack was made matchIn Window Box, a simple subject takes on ing in audio terms the perceptible multiple dimensions in a ghostly world changes in visual quality not usually created by the process of rephotograph- encountered within the environment of ing projected negative footage. There is a the cinema. This film realized total congentle reminder in this process in the trol over the making of a film, from selecframing of the eventual image, which tion of the original camera stock, through incorporates in its composition a horizon- exposure, processing, printing, processtal bar of light from the wall from which ing, projection, cataloguing, and distribution.” the film is being rephotographed.” Mike Leggett, excerpts from unpubJohn Du Cane, Time Out, 1971 lished notes, 1972
Gill Eatherley, Deck “The strategy of minimizing content to intensify the perception of film as a plastic strip of frames is explicitly demonstrated in Le Grice’s seminal Little Dog For Roger. Here the 9.5mm ‘foundfootage’ of a boy and his dog is repeatedly pulled through the 16mm printer; the varying speed and swaying motion of the original filmstrip ironically allude to the constant speed and rigid registration of the 16mm film we are watching, and develop a tension between our knowledge of the static frames which comprise the filmstrip and the illusion of continuous motion with which it is imbued. The use of ‘found-footage’ and of repetition – which threatens endlessness, though this is a relatively short film – owe something to the ‘pop’ aesthetic then dominant, but the spectator is never permitted to complacently enjoy these foundimages; the graininess and under-illumination, the negative sequences and upside-down passages are designed not so much to add variation as to continuously render those simple images difficult to decipher, thus stressing that very act of decoding. The relentless asceticising of the image became a major preoccupation in subsequent British avant-garde filmmaking.” Deke Dusinberre, Perspectives on British Avant-Garde catalogue, 1977
“During a voyage by boat to Finland, the camera records three minutes of black and white 8mm of a woman sitting on a bridge. The preoccupation of the film is with the base and with the transformation of this material, which was first refilmed on a screen where it was projected by multiple projectors at different speeds and then secondly amplified with colour filters, using postive and negative elements and superimposition on the London Co-op’s optical printer.” Gill Eatherley, Light Cone distribution catalogue, 1997 “Deck was shot on Standard 8, black and white, on a boat going from Sweden to Finland on a trip to Russia. And then I just filmed it off the screen at St Martin’s, put some colour on it, and turned it upside-down … Just turned it upsidedown and put some sound on. The sound came off a radio – just fiddling around with a radio and a microphone, just inbetween stations. It was one of the longest films I’ve ever made and that kind of frightened me a little bit. I thought it would be too long, you know, 13 minutes was quite a long time. Most of my films are only three minutes, six minutes, eight minutes … but it could have gone on longer maybe…” Gill Eatherley, interview with Mark Webber, 2001
“If I had to compare my work with another activity, I would first point to two related musics: Reggae and certain West African music. If I had to label my work, I would choose a term radically opposed to ‘Structural’. I would say that I made ‘Ecstatic Cinema’ … I would like to think that the ecstatic is our birthright and to remember that ecstasy has many dimensions: we know that, from the Greek, we are talking about ‘a standing outside’ of oneself. This is meditation. And in the process of meditation, both rapture and a deep peace can co-exist. If my films work as intended, they will help you into ecstasy, and they will do this by satisfying in a polymorphic manner. The films are very physical, they are polyrhythmic and they are patterned in a manner designed to create a very definite way of seeing, of experiencing. I intend my films to jump out at you from their dark spaces, their gaps, their elisions, to vibrate in your whole being in the very manner and rhythm of felt experience. The magic of film for me is the possibility to portray these complex interlacings unfolding through time. You can watch one of my films, and see two films simultaneously; one of my mind and one of yours. I say film of ‘my mind’, but what I want to emphasise, because the films emphasise it, is that is a film of my being. The last thing I want my films to be is a purely mental event. This would be to deny a large part of the spectrum of the film.” John Du Cane, “Statement on Watching My Films: A Letter from John Du Cane”, Undercut 13, 1984-85 “I was interested in film as a sculptural medium, and as a way to have the viewer be more aware of his viewing process, of his consciousness. My films were meditative at a time when that phrase wasn’t a popular term to use, but most of the films were designed to reflect the viewer back on themself. I also usually wanted my films to be very physical experiences, I wanted to make the experience work on really all of the main levels of energy; the physical, the intellectual and the aspects of awareness that we associate with consciousness. In Zoom Lapse I was also interested in working with the way we perceive time and space as it can be manipulated through the camera. Of course part of the content of this film had to do with the camera’s ability to squeeze our perspective through the process of zooming in and zooming out on a particular area. In the making of the film I actually lapsed the zoom process, so that I would shoot a single frame that had a zoom within it, and sequences in the film that were more extended zooms, so I took a very simple shot. I was living on a canal in Hamburg in a kind of romantic, old warehouse district, about all that was left after the bombing of the city. There was an old set of warehouse windows across the way and so I was interested in exploring the ways that you could squeeze space and watch the relationships between your time perception and your perception of space and how the two interact. There’s a process in the film, that happens in many of my other films, where I want the viewer to be pretty conscious that what they’re seeing is not something that exists on the celluloid, that there’s a way they’re manufacturing
many other, less complex, loop-type films. Crosswaite works, in this film, with two basic images: Piccadilly at night and a shape which suggests at moments a 3-D close-up of a flowerlike organic growth or a Matisse-like abstract 2-D cutout. Depending on the colour dye of the particular film-segment and the positive/negative interchange, the object changes shading and constanyly re-forms from one dimension to the other, while shifting our perceptions from its reality as 3-dimensional re-presentation to its reality as cutout filling the film-frame with jagged edged blackness.” Peter Gidal, NFT English Independent Cinema programme notes, 1972
“Regarding the in-built tautological aspects of perceptual structuring. Since refuted.” Mike Dunford, London Film-Makers’ Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1977 “Each time I make a film I see it as a kind of hypothesis, or a questioning statement, rather than a flat assertion of any particular form or idea… Each film is a film experiment in the sense that the most attractive features are those that work… My films are not about ideas, or aesthetics, or systems, or mathematics, but are about film, film-making, and film-viewing, and the interaction and intervention of intentive self-conscious reasoning activity in that context.” Mike Dunford, 2nd International Avant-Garde Festival programme notes, 1973 “Its pretty obvious isn’t it? That’s the kind of film that me and Roger Hammond talked about. It’s because we actually spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the Co-op, processing things and talking about ideas. He’d read Derrida and all that kind of stuff, and as a result I read some of it too. And that’s how I would have got to make something like Tautology, by talking to someone like him A very simple idea, simply done; it does one thing and that’s all it does.” Mike Dunford, interview with Mark Webber, 2001
“… an enclosed and progressive disembowelment of durational progression. He draws out singularities … he allows the camera only a fenced in area, piecemeal. He lets the gaze hold on objects and constantly repeats … this permits the possibilities of the discrepancies between one’s own seeing and seeing with the camera to become distinct, and this in turn allows for a completely different experience of the surroundings.” Birgit Hein, Film Im Underground, 1971
John Du Cane, Zoom Lapse
in the viewing process. The film should very obviously be something that if you come back and watch it a second, third, fourth, fifth time you’re not really going to see the same thing because the eye is creating sets of images that don’t actually exist.” “Structural/Materialist film attempts to John Du Cane, interview with Mark be non-illusionist. The process of the film’s making deals with devices that Webber, 2002 result in demystification or attempted LITTLE DOG FOR ROGER demystification of the film process. But by ‘deals with’ I do not mean ‘represents’. In other words, such films do not “The film is made from some fragments document various film procedures, which of 9.5mm home movie that my father would place them in the same category as shot of my mother, myself, and a dog we films which transparently document a had. This vaguely nostalgic material has narrative, a set of actions, etc. Documentation, through usage of the film provided an opportunity for me to play medium as transparent, invisible, is with the medium as celluloid and various exactly the same when the object being kinds of printing and processing devices. documented is some ‘real event’, some The qualities of film, the sprockets, the ‘film procedure’, some ‘story’, etc. An individual frames, the deterioration of avant-garde film defined by its develop- records like memories, all play an imporment towards increased materialism and tant part in the meaning of this film.” materialist function does not represent, or Malcolm Le Grice, Progressive Art document, anything. The film produces Productions distribution catalogue, 1969
operator can get, with the help of a Bolex-16 pro. With an overwhelming, complex, deep, beautiful soundtrack by Film is a unique tool for the investigation Anthony.” Peter Gidal, London Film-Makers’ of time and space. The subjective time of the photographed image may be meas- Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1971 ured against the objective time of projection through the use of time-lapse, editing “Gidal’s ultimate goal is the viewer’s head: he’s interested in the way that the and duration. viewer comes to terms with what he sees, First tracing sunlight moving around a the analytic process of working out the room, then a static study of illumination true nature of the experience. Like other around a night-time window. The formal ‘structuralists’, his distrust of content in Leading Light might surprise those famil- films verges on an all-but-paranoid fear iar with the more humorous works of of human emotion… and since his films define their own rhythms (rather than John Smith. life-rhythms, as in Peter Gidal uncharacteristically used the matching mechanics of an automated camera to Eisensteinian montage) they presuppose construct the loop-like rhythm of Focus, the viewer’s willing surrender to the task which zooms through the “static reality” of watching them. At their best, as in of a mysterious apartment. With an elec- Bedroom or Focus (the latter a series of backward-and-forward zooms through an tronic score by Anthony Moore. Sheet develops from a conceptual basis open indoor space, the elements within and could be viewed as documentation of the shot at once seemingly arbitrary and an event. The eponymous object is seen precisely defined), they are sufficiently in different locations, making this one of strong conceptually to capture the viewer the few experimental films that offer us into participating in the experience, conincidental glimpses of London during this sciously or not. One of the few genuine ‘originals’ at work in Britain.” period. Tony Rayns, “Directory of UK Le Grice’s film Whitchurch Down (Duration) takes three views of a land- Independent Film-Makers”, Cinema scape and combines them with pure Rising No. 1, April 1972 colours and intermittent sound in progressive loop sequences and freeze- “Film cannot adequately represent conframes, positing duration as a concrete sciousness any more than it adequately represents meaning; all film is invisibly dimension. Shot to a pre-planned structure, Welsby’s encumbered by mystificatory systems dynamic Fforest Bay II uses speed as the and interventions which are distortions, instrument with which he demonstrates repressions, selections, etc. That a film is the disparity between the cinematic view not a window to life, to a set of meanings, to a pure state of image/meaning, ought and the film surface. Via time-lapse, manual exposure and to be self-evident. Thus, the documenting refilming, Broadwalk by William Raban of an act of film-making is as illusionist a ranges from serenity to rigour. The per- practice as the documenting of a narrative ceptible traces of human movement action (fiction). And consciousness is as appear as ghosts in the tranquil walkway. encumbered by the illusionist devices of David Hall, a pioneer of video art, dis- cinema, if one is attempting to document plays a command of the cinematic medi- ‘it’, as anything else. Filmic reflexiveness um in the layers of superimposition that is the presentation of consciousness to the make up Phased Time2, building up aural self, consciousness of the way one deals and visual ‘chords’ while mapping out a with the material operations; film relexiveness is forced through cinema’s materoom on the flat screen. rialist operations of filmic practice.” Peter Gidal, “Theory and Definition John Smith, Leading Light, 1975, colour, of Structural/Materialist Film”, Structural sound, 11m Peter Gidal, Focus, 1971, b/w, sound, 7m Film Anthology, 1976 Ian Breakwell & Mike Leggett, Sheet, SHEET 1970, b/w, sound, 21m Malcolm Le Grice, Whitchurch Down “Sheet is concerned with redefining (Duration), 1972, colour, sound, 8m Chris Welsby, Fforest Bay II, 1973, boundaries, affirming that old Gestalten thing that elements in a field are always colour, silent, 5m William Raban, Broadwalk, 1972, colour, subordinated to the whole, the composition of it – an aggregate of episodes – is sound, 12m David Hall, Phased Time2, 1974, colour, such that what finally emerged was a somewhat soft mesmeric movie, the repsound, 15m etitions and symmetries setting up moods (Total running time approximately 82m) in which one became immersed.” Roger Hammond, London FilmThis programme adapts its title from Makers’ Co-operative catalogue suppleMalcolm Le Grice’s “Location? ment, 1972 Duration?” exhibition of films and paintings at the Drury Lane Arts Lab in 1968. “Shrouding or hiding belong both to
SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT
in a sense, if you have the eyes to see, everything is revealed, and technique is no longer a means of alienation between observer and actor, or between the actor and his activity. From this point of view, Malcolm Le Grice exhibits an unusual honesty and integrity of intention. If Le Grice’s heart is in technique, then his concurrent concern with the context within which an observer assimilates and directly experiences his structured time/space events, is a way of wearing his heart on his sleeve.” John Du Cane, Time Out, 1977 to slow down the speed changes and show the build up of individual frames. The intermittent light sections of the film were made by filming directly into the projector gate, sometimes ‘freezing’ individual frames and repeating sections of the darker film. By using freeze frames, bleached images, under-exposure and inclusion of the frame line, the film asserts both its physical and illusionistic realities.” William Raban, programme notes, 1972 Guy Sherwin, At The Academy, 1974, b/w, sound, 5m David Crosswaite, The Man With The Movie Camera, 1973, b/w, silent, 8m Mike Dunford, Silver Surfer, 1972, b/w, sound, 15m Jenny Okun, Still Life, 1976, colour, silent, 6m Lis Rhodes, Dresden Dynamo, 1971, colour, sound, 5m Chris Garratt, Versailles I & II, 1976, b/w, sound, 11m Roger Hewins, Windowframe, 1975, colour, sound, 6m (Total running time approximately 78m) Guy Sherwin, Arts Council Film- British Film and Video Artists, 1996 makers on Tour catalogue, 1980 “Sounds are affective. Images are instruc“At the Academy was made during a peri- tive. In reversing, turning over, the notaod of raiding laboratory skips for junk tion, or perhaps the connotation of film. It uses a very simple and highly images and words, it becomes alarmingly unprofessional homemade printer. The apparent that words (and not only in their found-footage was hand printed by wind- relationship with sentences) are to be ing it on a sprocketed wheel through a believed, or not, and are therefore emolight beam. Because the light spills over tional. This is why lots can be said and the sound track area, the optical sound nothing happens, or nothing is said and a undergoes identical transformations to lot happens. One person’s word against the image. I programmed the printing so another’s. The answer and the question that the image gradually builds up in lay- occupy the same space. They are already ers superimposed, slightly out of phase, familiar if not known to each other. moving from one up to twelve layers. Emotionally they live within the same political order, that is, of manipulation and persuasion. Images do not ‘say’. They are instructive. They are said to ‘speak for themselves’. And I think they do. Seeing sense is a rare occurrence, in itself. There is little space for reflexive meaning in reflection. The one is the other, if not in geometry, certainly in time. The values of a social system are continuously displayed and reproduced. Repetitive distribution re-enforces acceptance, protectionism masquerades as ‘free’ choice. But the explicit nature of images always remains implicit. You can look at them. They are made to look at you. Even chance cannot avoid recognition. Abstract or configured instruction is within the image. Even nothing much is something. Meanwhile the needle goes round and round the record irrespective of the recording. Tape wraps round the head and the disc spins. “Read my lips’, he said. Hopefully, we didn’t bother. This has the effect of stretching or decel- Seeing is never believing, or lip sync a erating individual frames from 1/24 sec confirmation of authenticity. But the to 1/2 sec, causing them to fuse with combination of instruction and affectivity adjacent frames. A separate concern in is very effective. Anything can be sold in the film is the game it plays with the audi- between, anything that necessitates the political construction of emotion. In a ence’s expectations.” Guy Sherwin, A Perspective on series of films and live works I have English Avant-Garde Film catalogue, investigated the material connections 1978 between the film image and the optical sound track. In Dresden Dynamo, the one THE MAN WITH THE was the other. That is – what is heard is MOVIE CAMERA seen and what is seen is heard. One symbolic order creates the other. The film is “Crosswaite’s Man with the Movie the score is the sound.” Camera is a particularly elegant film. By Lis Rhodes, “Flashback from a mounting a circular mirror a little before Partisan Filmmaker”, Filmwaves No. 6, the camera, so that it only occupies the 1998 central area of the screen, and another mirror to the side, the camera and the VERSAILLES I & II cameraman may be seen as the central “For this film I made a contact printing image, with the other features of the room visible around the circumference. The box, with a printing area 16mm x 185mm film is complex in spite of the simplicity which enabled the printing of 24 frames of picture plus optical sound area at one of the set-up, which is only slowly time. The first part is a composition using grasped. Particularly succinct is the way in which the effect of manipulating the 7 x one-second shots of the statues of Versailles. Palace of 1000 Beauties, with camera, like changing focus, is seen in accompanying soundtrack, woven the image simultaneously with a view of how it is brought about. There is no other according to a pre-determined sequence. ‘content’ than the functioning of the cam- Because sound and picture were printed era itself, seen to be sufficient and even simultaneously, the minute inconsistencies in exposure times resulted in rhythpoetic.” mic fluctuations of picture density and Malcolm Le Grice, Abstract Film and levels of sound. Two of these shots comBeyond, 1977 prise the second part of the film which is framed by abstract imagery printed SILVER SURFER across the entire width of the film sur“A surfer, filmed and shown on tv, face: the visible image is also the sound refilmed on 8mm, and refilmed again on image.” Chris Garratt, London Film-Makers’ 16mm. Simple loop structure preceded by four minutes of a still frame of the Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1977 surfer. An image on the borders of apprehension, becoming more and more “I was motivated originally by the abstract. The surfer surfs, never surfs prospect of being able to compose sound anywhere, an image suspended in the and visual images in units of fractions of light of the projector lamp. A very quiet seconds and by the tremendous ratio of and undramatic film, not particularly magnification between the making and didactic. Sound: the first four minutes projection of sound and picture images. consists of a fog-horn, used as the basic The content is not really the figurative tone for a chord played on the organ, the subject matter as in some superimposed rest of the film uses the sound of breakers concept, but the here and now of the raw with a two second pulse and occasional material, in making and in projection, and in the relationship between these two bursts of musical-like sounds.” London Film-Makers Co-operative events in which nothing is hidden, distribution catalogue supplement, 1972 propped up, decorated, representative or representable. (The choice of the materi“Scientific or objective reality is based on al used was largely a matter of chance, repetition or frequency of observed data. but it is significant that (1) the original It has been postulated that any unusual footage deals with ‘art’ and ‘culture’ in a event which occurs only once cannot be very clichéd way, (2) we instantly relate observed. Organisation of space is deter- to this whole genre of documentary rather mined by a continuous reference to the than to the particular subject, (3) it conrelationships between the observer and tains virtually no subject or camera the observed data. ‘Objectivity’ is a func- movement at all, and (4) there is an optition of frequency, continued frequency cal soundtrack, identifiable during editimplies permanence and therefore objec- ing only in the abstract, i.e. visually).” Chris Garratt, “Directory of tivity. Frequency is determined by the British Cinema”, organism. The perceptual threshold of a Independent human being is approximately 1/30th of a Independent Cinema No. 1, 1978 second. Perception is a product of freWINDOWFRAME quency which is a product of perception.” Mike Dunford, “Conjectures and “Windowframe is an investigation of the Assertions”, Filmaktion programme way in which we may perceive a specific notes, 1973 image – that of two people, seen through a window, involved in some activity. This STILL LIFE is the image seen at the opening of the film. Subsequent sections of the film “Still Life moves towards later stages of present to the viewer differing juxtapositransformation than the earlier films and tions of the four segments of this image substitutes positive for negative camera which are created by the cross-bars of the stock in the conventional negative-posi- window. Tensions are created between tive process of filming and printing: the what we expect to see, and what we do filmmaker then attempts to reinstate see. We see the original image as a single some sort of representation of reality by whole. Do we perceive the manipulated painting the fruit in front of the camera its sections in the same way, or are we drawn negative colours; but the burnt-out shad- to investigate each pane separately? Can ows and black highlights consistently we make ourselves see the manipulated prevent any illusionistic interpretation of sections in the same way we see the origthe space within the frame while also inal sequence? In the section in which the asserting the processes involved.” image is split simply horizontally or verJeremy Spencer, “Films of Jenny tically are we able to re-establish/re-conOkun”, Readings No. 2, 1977 struct the original image in our minds so that the image we see differs from that on “My films, photographic constructions, the screen? Perhaps this film answers and paintings all stem from similar con- some of these questions; perhaps it merecerns. They are attempts to integrate the ly raises them.” structural aspects of an event/landscape Roger Hewins, Derby Independent with the structural aspects of the medium Film Awards catalogue, 1976 involved. This integration of structures is aimed at creating a balance with no one “For the best part of ten years element overstated, no one part domi- Windowframe was exhibited as a silent nant. My own participation is emphasised film. I had, however, always ‘seen’ it as a film with sound. stripe in this process – just as scientists now to facilitate this Indeed a magneticto the had been added acknowledge that their own existence original print of the film at the lab. cannot be ignored in the calculation of However, I was unable to decide exactly experimental data. The subjects that I what the soundtrack should be. A simple choose are not those that most easily sug- music track seemed inappropriate, too gest a filmic structure but are subjects much like background music for its own which cannot be verbalized. For me, film sake with little relationship to the strucis a language with which we can study ture of the visuals, whilst attempts at a more our own visual thought processes. Each duced constructed rhythmic track introextraneous ‘off-screen’ informanew film can create its own language for tion taking the viewer outside of the this visual discussion and can be explored experience of simply watching the film and contained within its own terms.” itself. I was looking for a soundtrack that Jenny Okun, Arts Council Film- provided an equivalence for the visuals themselves. The soundtrack on the existMakers on Tour catalogue, 1980 ing print is the “Missa Pange Lingua’” by Josquin des Pres. It was combined with DRESDEN DYNAMO the visuals in 1982. This music was in fact recorded for a later film. During the “The enduring importance of Lis Rhodes editing of this film I became interested in as artist and film-maker is attributable to the ‘out-takes’, where singers had made her quiet and powerful radicalism. mistakes injecting sudden interruptions in Rhodes’ work juxtaposes an artistically the four-part medieval harmonies. Not and theoretically rigorous practice with only did the religious music resonate the passionate commitment. She has devel- stained glass quality of the images, but oped a mode of film-making inspired but also the four-part structure and its internot enslaved by feminism, which has sus- ruptions provided the auditory equivalence for the overall structure of the film. tained and grown regardless of fashionable trends in art and representation.” Roger Hewins, 2002 Gill Henderson, A Directory of
FFOREST BAY II
“Each of my films is a separate attempt to re-define the interface between ‘mind’ and ‘nature’. Although specified or at least implied in any one piece of work, this delineation is constantly changed and adapted both as a definition, at a material level, and as a working model, at a conceptual level, to each unique situation or location. Without this essentially cybernetic view of the relationship between ‘mind’ and ‘nature’, a view in which the relation between the two operates as a homeostatic loop, ‘nature’ becomes nothing more than potential raw material at the disposal of ‘mind’ acting upon it. This raw material is most visibly manifest in that subdivision of ‘nature’ termed ‘landscape’. The wilder and more remote this landscape is, the further it is removed from, and the less it exhibits those signs which mark the activities of ‘mind’. Technology is both a subdivision of ‘nature’ and an extension of ‘mind’. Viewed within these terms of reference, the camera, as a product of technology, can be seen as a potential interface between ‘mind’ and ‘nature’.” Chris Welsby, Arts Council Filmmakers on Tour catalogue, 1980 “The idea that I was thinking of with Fforest Bay was sort of the way that if you changed the ‘sampling rates’, you were able to capture different types of events. One sampling rate would do certain things with the waves, and other sampling rates would start to register the activity of people in the scene. With another sampling rate, you’d be able to see the clouds moving. The idea was to start with a really rapid sampling rate and then slow it down, and then reverse the process. So the fastest sampling rate was one frame per position. I divided the rotation circle of sixty degrees into eight segments: rotated the camera, took a frame, rotated it again, took a frame, etc. Second time round, I took two frames, and so on up to about thirty frames, I think. At the fastest sampling rate, you can’t really see much because it’s going too fast; you’re more aware of the circular motion of the camera itself. Then as it starts to slow down, you can see individual waves break on the shore. As it slows down some more you can see people and, eventually, clouds and changes of light. Then, the whole process returns. Also, the image flattens when it’s going very fast, so you may become aware of the film surface itself rather than the surface through the screen.” Chris Welsby, interview with Mark Webber, 2001
“Constructed on a pre-determined progressively self-defining ‘phased’ score and lens-matting procedure, Phased Time2 consists of six sections, each out of a 100 ft. roll. All work was done in camera except for linking with black spacer between sections. Apart from the first, each section is subdivided according to logical cyclic procedures. Each division (take) is a fixed position shot. At every consecutive take the camera is ‘prepanned’ half a frame’s width to the right. Effectively, the camera is revolving in a ‘static pan’ around a room throughout the film. Also, each consecutive take is partially superimposed over its predecessor (by rewinding after each take) and consequently phases the half-frame moves. The first section is a single continuous take, with the whole frame exposed. The second commences the phased divisions; in each, the whole frame is exposed. In the third, alternative takes are matted half a frame’s width, progressively left and right of the frame. In the fourth, takes are progressively matted by quarter frame widths and cycle twice; once through whole frame exposure; quarter matte (right); half; three quarters; half; quarter, and back to whole. Then, quarter matte (left); half; three quarters, etc. In the fifth, the same procedure is taken using multiples of a one-eighth matte, but this time proceeding through only one complete cycle. The sixth, and last, proceeds through one-sixteenth mattes from whole frame to black (left). The second section (the first to comprise a multiple of takes) has its number of divisions determined by the number of half-frame moves necessary to complete a 180 degree linear ‘pan’ (eight using a 10mm lens). Subsequent sections progressively increase their numbers (according to matte cycles) until the last which completes a 360 degree pan, with all takes simultaneously superimposed in the center of the section in sixteen takes (concurrent with the one-sixteenth progressive mattes). The comparative ‘panning’ pace is apparently accelerated or decelerated according to the relative matting procedure and number of frame divisions, working from left to right and back from right to left and back, since the camera is at all times moved to the right. The sound phases and eventually superimposes synchronously with the picture, and was produced on a synthesizer and electric organ.” David Hall, First Festival of Independent British Cinema catalogue, 1975 * * *
Jenny Okun, Still Life
“Slides was made while I was still a student at St.Martins. Like the sewing machine piece, it was one that just happened. By that time I was immersed in film and I always seemed to have bits of film around in my room, on the table, everywhere, always little fragments. I had slides of my paintings and I cut up the slides and made them into a strip. Imagine a 16mm strip of celluloid with sprocket holes: Instead of that what I had was a strip – just slightly narrower – without the sprocket holes and the slides were just cut into bits, just little fragments and stuck in with other film as well, and also sewing (this was before Reel Time). There are bits sewn with thread and some bits with holes punched in. It was a very natural way of me to work, coming from painting, just working with something I could hold in my hand was somehow less threatening than working with equipment. I think I was much more confident working with something that I could grab hold of, so I made this strip and then the film was really created in the contact printer at the Coop. Normally you would have your raw negative and your emulsion and its literally in contact, the light shines through it and you make a copy, but I had this very thin strip, which I held in the contact printer and I just manoeuvered it. I could see what I was doing because there’s a little peephole you can look into so that you can see each image. It amazes me now that I could have ever done anything like that, I couldn’t possibly go within a hundred yards of doing it now. But I did it then and Slides was what came out of it. Annabel Nicolson, interview with Mark Webber, 2002 “Slides develops a simple and elegant tension between stasis and apparent motion, between surface and depth, and between abstract colours / shapes and representational imagery. Ironically, the material pulled through the printer this time is not found-footage posing as original material which is utilized in the way found-footage had been used by others. The film thus engages the entire concept of – in David Curtis’ phrase – ‘the English rubbish tip aesthetic’ which embraces, in part, the theory that anything that can travel through a printer and/or projector is film material for a film and for cinematic projection. The valueless becomes valued. Nicolson asserts the preciousness not only of her original material but also that material in its transformations, and by extension the potential preciousness of all perception. In this respect the film moves away from the rigorous ascetic strategy and is more indulgent of the pleasure of vision…” Deke Dusinberre, Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film catalogue, 1977
“This film reiterates some of the concerns of Raban’s earlier work: the manipulation of time and the role of light/colour in landscape representation. The opening and closing sequences of the film, shot at regular camera speed (24 frames per second) establish a tension with the predominant time-lapse/time-exposure sequence (each frame exposed for a full twenty seconds). The original hundred feet or so which were exposed during a period of 24 hours in Regent’s Park were then refilmed (off a projection screen) resulting in a film over 400 feet long. This technique of rephotography further abstracts the process of landscape representation and offers greater possibilities for variation and control over certain aesthetic effects. Raban’s established motif of the light/colour variations of landscape imagery is here radicalized into white/black sequences, which operate in similar ways despite their polarity. White-outs constantly flatten the deep space of the original image. Black ‘bars’ – parts of irregularly exposed (rephotographed) frames – are seen rolling across the screen emphasizing its surface nature. And the black ‘night’ sequence serves to assert a strong identity between film and landscape, in so far as blackness is first felt as absence of landscape, and only then as absence of light – inverting causal order. The fundamental aspect of this film is the interpretation of actual time and actual landscape into filmic time
INTERVENTION & PROCESSING
The workshop was an integral part of the LFMC and provided almost unlimited access to hands-on printing and processing. Within this supportive environment, artists were free to experiment with technique and engage directly with the filmstrip in an artisan manner. By treating film as a medium in the same way that a sculptor might use different materials, the Co-op filmmakers brought a new understanding of the physical substance and the way it could be crafted. Annabel Nicolson pulled prepared sections of film (which might be sewn, collaged, perforated) through the printer to make Slides. Fred Drummond’s Shower Proof, an early Co-op process film, exploits the degeneration of the image as a result of successive reprinting, intuitively cutting footage of two people in a bathroom. Guy Sherwin uses layers of positive and negative leader to build a powerful basrelief in At The Academy, while Jenny Okun explores the properties of colour negative in Still Life. Considered and brilliantly executed, The Man with the Movie Camera dazzles with technique as focus, aperture and composition are adjusted to exploit a mirror positioned in front of the lens. For Silver Surfer, Mike Dunford refilms
Ian Breakwell & Mike Leggett, Sheet
“Leading Light evolves a sense of screen depth and surface through the simple agency of light. The film is shot in a room over the period of a day and records the changes in light through the single window. The image is controlled through manipulation of aperture, of shutter release, of lens, but the effect is more casual than determined and the spectator is aware primarily of the determining strategy of following sunlight. Smith has commented that, “…the film is not intended as an academic exercise – I wanted to make a film of light cast by the sun largely because I found it beautiful. At the same time, I did not want to make an illusionistic narrative film about the sun moving around a room, but instead to employ these events within an essentially filmic construction. Because the images are so seductive, there is a conflict in the film between the events which occurred and the way in which they were recorded. This is quite intentional – for this reason I chose a very romantic piece of music for the soundtrack, which is mechanistically manipulated. The sound (which only occurs when an image of a record player appears on the screen) alters in level in relation to two variables – the apparent distance from the camera to the apparent source of the sound, and the exposure of the individual shots (bright=loud, dark=quiet). The manipulations according to distance are merely an extension of an accepted illusionistic code (source of sound seems further away, therefore the sound is quieter, etc.), whereas the manipulations according to brightness are materialist – a new code, but just as valid as the other in the film’s terms.”” Deke Dusinberre, Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film catalogue, 1977 “Leading Light uses the camera-eye to reveal the irregular beauty of a familiar space. When we inhabit a room we are only unevenly aware of the space held in it and the possible forms of vision which reside there. The camera-eye documents and returns our apprehension. Vertov imagined a ‘single room’ made up of a montage of many different rooms. Smith reverses this aspect of ‘creative geography’ by showing how many rooms the camera can create from just one.” A.L. Rees, Unpacking 7 Films programme notes, 1980
death as the mysterious unseen killer, and to the corpse. Sheet has all these feelings. The uncertainty and surprise: where will it appear next? The sheet appears in odd places, making familiar objects look strange and uncanny. The party goes on with everybody pretending it isn’t there, embarrassed, ashamed of it, it is eventually kicked into a corner. This sums up our present approach to death. As the film proposes: the more we pretend it isn’t there, the more it pursues us. Then, in the final sequence in the valley there seems to be a feeling of resolution. Perhaps that the earth will eventually claim us, but also gives us birth, growth, and protection. So, as we realize that the sheet and the valley go together, so the sheet can go off to a more bearable distance.” Extract from a letter to the filmmakers from a member of the audience, circa 1970
“SONF SOUND TRACK SYNC? SPASH BTHA BATH GURGLE WATER – how real – pure film – or a report – situation examined by camera – but false – contrived realism is not a true record of spontaneous actuality – this could never
WHITCHURCH DOWN (DURATION)
“This film is the beginning of an examination of the perceptual and conceptual structures which can be dealt with using pure colour sequences in loop forms with pictorial material. In this case, the pictorial material is confined to three landscape locations and the structure is not mathematically rigorous.” Malcolm Le Grice, London FilmMakers’ Co-operative distribution catalogue, 1974 “The first general point about Le Grice’s work is that the eventual structure of his films is not normally the result of an adherence to a rigorously formulated initial concept. The films are better understood as events that emerge from his plastic concerns with film process. In other words, the meaning of Le Grice’s films stems principally from a direct exploitation of film’s physical properties; film can be physically manipulated, for instance, not merely in the act of exposing it to light in a camera, but also through direct control of its developing and printing. It is easy to be misled into thinking that such concerns with the technical properties of film necessarily result in a certain dehumanization of the film activity. The confusion results from an inability to see that the filmmaker is also an actor; i.e. a man who acts with film. By making explicit the materials and processes of the film, the film maker allows us to see his film not just as a finished object but as one event (and not always the culminating event) in a whole series of events that make up a continuum of film activity. And this is a remarkably courageous and personal thing to do: for,
Fred Drummond, Shower Proof be? enough to contrive (the camera makes every situation an arrangement), then edit out as much obvious contrivance. It is only a FILM.” Fred Drummond, original production notes for Shower Proof, 1968 “Fred Drummond has made a series of short single and double-screen films that explore visual rhythms and the potentials of the printing process. They are non-narrative, careful orchestrations of repeated loop footage. Shower Proof is printed on increasingly high-contrast negative. The image grows from the abstract, yet plainly anthropomorphic, steadily through to the personal, yet non-specific – we see neither the man’s nor the woman’s face in detail – and back. The film explores the relation between form and movement. The visual rhythm is so strong that despite the film being silent the viewer has a strong aural impression.” Verina Glaessner, “Directory of UK Independent Film-Makers”, Cinema Rising No.1, April 1972
William Raban, Broadwalk and filmic landscape. But the process of reinterpreting a rigorous time-lapse system of recording into an intuited one of re-recording might suggest that Raban has some reservations about the hegemony of any system and feels the need to insert a measure of spontaneous experience.” Deke Dusinberre, British AvantGarde Landscape Films programme notes, 1975 “Initially, the scale of screen speed was determined by the intermittency of frames. Within this broad framework, which reduces the whole daylight period to minutes, the film studies a more specific minor scale of speed changes occurring inside the twenty-second frame interval. In order to make this more apparent, I refilmed the original from the screen at a speed which was high enough individual frames of footage originally sourced from television as waves of electronic sound wash over the shimmering figure. Contrasting colours and optical patterns intensify the illusion that Lis Rhodes’ Dresden Dynamo appears to hover in deep space between the viewer and the screen. Garratt’s Versailles I & II breaks down a conventional travelogue into repetitive, rhythmic sections. Roger Hewins employs optical masking to create impossible ‘real time’ events which, though prosaic, appear to take on an almost sacred affectation in Windowframe.
“Taking the relocating enumerative placement of ‘static’ reality in Bedroom to its ultimate conclusion; a film whose ‘repetitions’ are as close to mechanistic processes (loops) as the human camera-
AT THE ACADEMY
“In making films, I am not trying to say Annabel Nicolson, Slides, 1970, colour, something, but to find out about something. But what one tries to find out, and silent, 12m (18fps) Fred Drummond, Shower Proof, 1968, how one tries to find it out, reveals what one is saying.” b/w, silent, 10m (18fps)
SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT
DIVERSIFICATIONS From personal montage through to exploration of the cinematic process, the work was sensuous and playful. As a creative group, the Co-op covered vital aesthetic ground and resisted categorisation. This programme does not pursue a single theme or concept, rather it demonstrates the tension rises, later to explode in spectacularly bending, twisting single-frame bursts. The brief, rapid-fire collage White Lite by Jeff Keen is made up of baffling layers of live action, stopmotion, obliteration and assemblage. Anne Rees-Mogg’s Muybridge Film, in homage to the pioneer of motion photography, constructs a playful film by breaking down a sequence accepted relationship between sound and image, the suggestive power of language. Chinese images and slogans are by split-screen, transformed ingrained dirt and hand-held photography to create a visual pun in Ian Kerr’s film, from “Persisting in our struggle” to Persisting in our vision. Annabel Nicolson, Shapes, 1970, colour, silent, 7m (18fps) Marilyn Halford, Footsteps, 1974, b/w, sound, 6m Malcolm Le Grice, Talla, 1968, b/w, silent, 20m Jeff Keen, White Lite, 1968, b/w, silent, 2.5m Anne Rees-Mogg, Muybridge Film, 1975, b/w, silent, 5m Stephen Dwoskin, Moment, 1968, colour, sound, 12m Chris Welsby, Windmill II, 1973, colour, sound, 10m John Smith, The Girl Chewing Gum, 1976, b/w, sound, 12m Ian Kerr, Persisting, 1975, colour, sound, 10m (Total running time approximately 85m) SHAPES
Annabel Nicholson, Shapes “I tried to make a kind of environment in the room where I lived in Kentish Town and to make a film within it. There were pieces of paper and screwed up, transparent gels hanging from the ceiling; it was quite dense in some parts. I wandered through it with a camera and then other parts were filmed on the rooftop at St Martins. I think I was just very much trying to find my way in a whole new area of work. I remember it involved a lot of refilming, which was the part I liked. The process was very fluid, similar to painting. I got quite interested in the specks of dust and dirt on the film and the re-filming gave me a chance to look at that more closely. Probably the thing that attracted me to film was the light … the kind of floating quality you can get, images suspended in light. Looking at it now, the kind of paintings I was doing before were floating shapes. It seems to me that the kind of things I was looking for I should be able to do with film. When I make a film, I’m not sure what I’m ever trying to achieve … it kind of gets clearer to me as I’m doing it.” Annabel Nicolson, interview with Mark Webber, 2002 “Compassion; care; love; appreciation; attention. Quietude; silence; slowness; gentleness; subtlety; lyricism; beauty. It is terms like these that Annabel Nicolson’s films can be discussed in (exploratory would be another), if they are to be discussed at all; and perhaps they are best left to themselves, and to the receptive eye, mind, and soul of the viewer. They are humble, unpretentious, searching, and thoughtful films: they are reverent, after a style, and should be seen with a similar sort of reverence. The ephemeral thing, by this compassionate attention, is given the aspect of timelessness which transcends mere nostalgia: the thing is seen ‘under the aspect of eternity’.” David Miller, Paragraphs On Some Films by Annabel Nicolson Seen in March 1973 “I think Talla is a hard film for most people. It’s a very psychological and mysterious film. It starts out, in one primitive way, from the interplay of the black and the white. I was interested in this white screen on which things appear black. It’s highly orchestrated, in terms of the black and white qualities of the image. There’s something that’s coming out in this work, in the mythological kind of subject – Chronos Fragmented and the Cyclops and all of that stuff – that Talla is playing on. The shot material is actually on a very obscure bit of Dartmoor, and Dartmoor Prison and the warders there. So there’s that element of the threatening, mysterious bit of society which is something that you can’t get into, the dark side of the social. It’s also very mythical, in that the gods and ghosts of that landscape are floating around there in the mist. It was completely edited directly on 16mm using a magnifying glass, I didn’t edit it at all through a viewer. I thought of it symphonically, in terms of the lengths and orchestration. There’s an element of propheticness in there…” Malcolm Le Grice, interview with Mark Webber, 2001 placed in a park. The basic system involves a windmill directly in front of the camera, so that as the blades pass by the lens they act as a second shutter, as a paradigm for the first shutter. The blades are covered in melanex, a mirrored fabric. The varying speeds of the blades present the spectator with varying perceptual data which require different approaches to the image. When moving slowly, they act as a repoussoir, heightening the sense of deep space. At a moderate speed, they act as an extra shutter which fragments ‘normal’ motion, emphasizing movement within the deeper plane and critiquing the notion of ‘normality’ in cinematic motion. When moving quite fast, the blades act as abstract images superimposed on the landscape image and flattening the two planes into one. And when the blades are stopped (or almost so) a completely new space is created – not only does the new (reflected) deep space contain objects in foreground and background to affirm its depth, but these objects are seen in anamorphosis (due to the irregular surface of the melanex) which effectively re-flattens them; the variations in the mirror surface create distortions which violate (or at least call attention to) the normal function of the WHITE LITE lens of the camera.” “Watch the ghost of Bela Lugosi decay Deke Dusinberre, “St. George in the before your very eyes. A sequel to Plan 9 Forest: The English Avant-Garde”, From Outer Space.” Afterimage No. 6, 1976 Jeff Keen/Deke Dusinberre, “Interim Jeff Keen Filmography with Arbitrary “Formalism has grown up in parallel with Annotations”, Afterimage No. 6, 1976 the development of an advanced technology. The medium of landscape film “Keen is indebted to the Surrealist tradi- brings to organic life the language of fortion for many of his central concerns: his malism. It is a language shared by both passion for instability, his sense of le film-makers and painters. In painting, merveilleux, his fondness for analogies particularly American painting of the and puns, his preference for ‘lowbrow’ art 1950s, formalistic thinking became manover aestheticism of any kind, his dedica- ifest in the dictum ‘truth to materials’, tion to collage and le hazard objectif. But placing the emphasis on paint and canvas this ‘continental’ facet of his work – vir- as the subject of the work. In film, partictually unique in this country – co-exists ularly the independent work done in with various typically English character- England, it manifests itself by emphasizistics, which betray other roots. The tacky ing the filmic process as the subject of the glamour/True Beauty of his Family Star work. The synthesis between these forproductions is at least as close to the end malistic concerns of independent film of Brighton pier as it is to Hollywood B- and the organic quality of landscape movies… The heroic absurdity and adult imagery is inevitably the central issue of infantilism that are the mainsprings of his contemporary landscape film. It is this comedy draw on a long tradition of post- attempt to integrate the forms of technolVictorian humour: not the ‘innocent’ vul- ogy with the forms found in nature which garity of music hall, but the anarchicness gives the art of landscape its relevance in of The Goons and the self-lacerating the twentieth century.” ironies of the 30s clowns, complete with Chris Welsby, Perspectives on British their undertow of melancholia.” Avant-Garde Film exhibition catalogue, Tony Rayns, “Born to Kill: Mr. Soft 1977 Eliminator”, Afterimage No. 6, 1976 way, river, or some other obstacle. 2. Something that resembles this in shape or function: his letters provided a bridge across the centuries. subtitle n. 1. an additional subordinate title given to a literary or other work. 2. (often pl.) Also called: caption. Films. a. a written translation superimposed on a film that has foreign dialogue. b. explanatory text on a silent film. vb. 3. (tr.; usually passive) to provide a subtitle for. subtitular adj. soundtrack n. 1. the recorded sound accompaniment to a film. Compare commentary (sense 2). 2. A narrow strip along the side of a spool of film, which carries the sound accompaniment … Wave Upon Wave of Wheatfield.” Ian Kerr, 2002 * * *
cation or implication.” Stephen Dwoskin, Film Is: The International Free Cinema, 1975
THE EPIC FLIGHT
An extended personal odyssey which, through an accumulation of visual information, builds into a treatise on the experience of seeing. Its loose, indefinable structure explores new possibilities for perception and narrative. Reinforcing the idea of the mythopoeic discourse and the historically romantic view of the artist-filmmaker, Mare’s Tail is a legend, consisting of layers of sounds and images that reveal each other over an extended period. It’s a personal vision, an aggregation of experience, memories and moments overlaid with indecipherable intonations and altered musics. The collected footage is extensively manipulated, through refilming, superimposition or direct chemical treatment. The observer may slip in and out of the film as it runs its course; it does not demand constant attention, though persistence is rewarded by experience after the full projection has been endured.
“A film that is almost a life style. Long enough and big enough in scope to be able to safely include boredom, blankscreens, bad footage. The kind of film that is analogous in a symbolic way to something like the ‘stream of life’ – no one would ever criticize looking out of the window as being boring sometimes. It’s not a film – more like an event composed of the collective ideas and attempts in film of several years. Like a personal diary: humorous, wry, sad, ecstatic. Concerned with texture, with seeing and not seeing, light and darkness, even life and death. Monumental not in size alone, but in its breadth of concept. Relaxed enough to be able to let one idea run on for twenty minutes before switching to another. The exact opposite of most filmmaking which attempts to keep the audience ‘interested’ by rapidly changing from one form or idea to another, to exclude boredom and participation. A ‘super-Le Grice’ in that it has inherent sensitivity and humanity, as well as superlative and highly inventive technique. It opens up film-making by including such self-conscious ethics as those propounded by Warhol etc. as a natural part of the film ethic as a whole.” Mike Dunford, Cinemantics No. 1, January 1970 “Mare’s Tail is one of the finest achievements in cinema. It is a masterpiece that everyone in the country should get to see. To write about it is about as difficult as conveying the essence of magic, the meaning of existence, the quality of love or the shadows of a receding dream. For the film is pure myth, a living organism in its own right, a creation whose infinite complexity makes criticism of it a shallow irrelevancy (or at best a crude mythology). The achievement is that the film never looks like a mere catalogue of special effects – the vision is integrated, relaxed, spontaneous and too fluid for there to be any sense of contrivance in this staggering display of inventive curiosity. The immense diversity of technique runs hand-in-hand with a sustained
broad range of work that was pro- into its constituent frames. duced during this time. Moment is an unmediated look, erotic but not explicit, as saturated as its The exposition section of Annabel celluloid. It’s a key work of Nicolson’s Shapes reveals its tactile Dwoskin’s early sensual portraits of evolution, as visible dirt is made evi- solitary girls, in which the returning dent by the step-printing technique. stare challenges our objective / subMoving into real time, the multiple jective gaze. layers of superimposition present Chris Welsby’s Windmill II is one of strange spatial dimensions as the a series in which propeller blades filmmaker toys with light, moving rotate in front of the camera, acting among the paper structures in her as a second shutter, controlled by an room. unpredictable and natural force. In Footsteps engages the camera (view- this instance, the blades are backed er) in a playful game of “statues”. with a reflective material that offers The film was often presented as a a glance back at the recording device live performance in which Marilyn intermittent with the zoetropic view Halford crept up on her own project- of the park. ed likeness. In The Girl Chewing Gum, by John Le Grice’s Talla adopts an almost Smith, the narration appears to direct mythical pose. Images slowly everyday life before breaking down, encroach on the frame as the visual causing the viewer to question the
“I started making films in 1966, and teaching filmmaking in 1967. Before that I had been painting and drawing and exhibiting at the Beaux Arts Gallery and other places. My first film was a painterly study of interference colours and structures of soap bubbles (Nothing is Something). At the same time I made a 16mm home movie of my nephews which was called Relations. I realized two things, one that film is not about movement, and that the figurative and narrative possibilities of the second film were what I wanted to explore. Eight years later I made the film I should have made then, a small film called Muybridge Film in which I explored all the filmic possibilities of someone turning a cartwheel.” Anne Rees-Mogg, Arts Council FilmMakers on Tour catalogue, 1980
THE GIRL CHEWING GUM
“I am writing this with a black ‘Tempo’ fiber-tip pen. A few months ago, I bought fifteen of these pens for sixty pence. Unfortunately, because they are so common, other people pick them up thinking they are theirs, so I don’t have many left now. I bought the pens from a market in Kingsland Road in Hackney, about a hundred yards from where the film was shot. The film draws attention to the cinematic codes and illusions it incorporates by denying their existence, treating representation as absolute reality.” John Smith, “Directory of Independent British Cinema”, Independent Cinema No. 1, 1978 “In relinquishing the more subtle use of voice-over in television documentary, the film draws attention to the control and directional function of that practice:
David Larcher, Mare’s Tail While studying at the Royal College of Art, David Larcher made a first film KO (1964-65, with soundtrack composed by Philip Glass), which was subsequently disassembled and small sections incorporated in Mare’s Tail (a recurrent practise that continues through his later works). Encouraged by contact with true independent filmmakers like Peter Whitehead and Conrad Rooks, Larcher set out on to document his own life in a quasi-autobiographical manner. Though financed by wealthy patron Alan Power, Mare’s Tail was, in its technical fabrication, a self-sufficient project made before the Co-op had any significant workshop equipment. At times, Larcher was living in a truck, and stories of films processed in public lavatories in the Scottish Highlands do not seem far from the truth. His relationship to the Co-op has always been slightly distanced, though his lifestyle impressed and influenced many of the younger, more marginal figures. His next film, Monkey’s Birthday (1975, six hours long), was shot over several years’ travels across the world with his entourage, and this time made full use of the Co-op processor to achieve its psychedelic effect. simplicity of treatment. You’re aware of a mind that is open and loving toward everything: and this loving openness of response transfigures every image in the film, as it eventually transfigures the viewer too…” John Du Cane, Time Out, 1972 “A film that is undoubtedly one of the most important produced in this country and that stands comparison with the best from the United States. It’s as if it were the first film in the world. When Mare’s Tail first appeared it was compared to Brakhage’s Art of Vision, as an examination of ways of seeing. The comparison can be taken further: as Brakhage is to the New American Cinema, it seems to me, so Larcher should be considered to the New English Cinema… Mare’s Tail is not only about vision but proposes an epistemology of film, particularly in its first reel: revealing basic elements of film in an almost didactic fashion: grain, frame, strip, projector, light. We see a film in perpetual process, being put together, being formed out of these attitudes. The first reel is a ‘lexicon’ to the whole film – to film in general – holding together what is essentially an open-ended structure to which pieces could be continually added and offering us a way to read that film. It is at once a kind of autobiography and a film about making that autobiography.” Simon Field, “The Light of the Eyes”, Art and Artists, December 1972
“Footsteps is in the manner of a game reinacted, the game in making was between the camera and actor, the actor and cameraman, and one hundred feet of film. The film became expanded into positive and negative to change balances within it; black for perspective, then black to shadow the screen and make paradoxes with the idea of acting, and the act of seeing the screen. The music sets a mood then turns a space, remembers the positive then silences the flatness of the negative. I am interested in the relationship of theatrical devices in film working at tangents with its abstract visual qualities. The use of a game works the memory, anticipation is set, positive film stands to resemble a three-dimensional sense of time in past/future. Then negative holds out film itself as the image is one stage further abstracted and a disquiet is set up in the point that the sound track ends, whilst the picture track continues.” Marilyn Halford, Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film exhibition cata- John Smith, The Girl Chewing Gum logue, 1977 “We’d just got one of these Russian film developing tanks, that you can load 100 feet of black and white film into and develop it yourself, which is very appealing because it means you haven’t got all the palaver of going to labs. Footsteps is based, obviously, on a game. Now whose early work would I have seen that prompted that? I think the image itself came from René Clair. That slightly rough black and white image I like very much – the idea of it not mattering if it’s got speckly and dusty. It had a certain degree of antiquity built into it which, to me, was quite liberating because it’s hard to keep it all dust free and so forth. Anyway, that’s how I wanted it, I wanted it to look old even before it started, like old footage. Consequently it’s got the Scott Joplin soundtrack, “The Entertainer”; just because it’s amusing and also to add that aged thing to it. The first time it goes through it’s in negative so you wouldn’t necessarily see what was going on, so you would have a lot of questions and curiosity as to what was happening. And then when all is revealed the right way round, it is just so simple, it’s just such a simple game. I suppose the performance part of it just grew out of that, to extend it really, it was another way of presenting it – to take part and to play the game with the film image itself.” Marilyn Halford, interview with Mark Webber, 2001
“Moment presents a continuous, fixed gaze by the camera at a girl’s face. The fixity, although paralleling the spectator’s position, nevertheless marks itself off as ‘different’ from our view because it refuses the complex system of movements, cuts, ‘invisible’ transitions, etc. which classic cinema developed to capture our ‘subjectivity’ and absorb it into the filmic text. In this way, the distinction between the looks of the camera at the profilmic event and of the viewer at the image is emphasized. Moreover, the sadistic components inherent in the pleasurable exercise of the ‘controlling’ gaze (a basic fact without which no cinema could exist) are returned to the viewer, as it is he/she who must construct the ‘scenario’ by combining a reading of the image (slight movements of the woman, colour changes in her face, facial expressions, etc.) with an imagined (but suggested) series of happenings off-screen. The result is a narrative: the progressive excitement of a woman who masturbates.” Paul Willemen, Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film catalogue, 1977
imposing, judging, creating an imaginary scene from a visual trace. This ‘Big Brother’ is not only looking at you but ordering you about as the viewer’s identification shifts from the people in the street to the camera eye overlooking the scene. The resultant voyeurism takes on an uncanny aspect as the blandness of the scene (shot in black and white on a grey day in Hackney) contrasts with the near ‘magical’ control identified with the voice. The most surprising effect is the ease with which representation and description turn into phantasm through the determining power of language.” Michael Maziere, “John Smith’s Films: Reading the Visible”, Undercut 10/11, 1984
“Thee gap in between, perception and awareness of perception of moment is Persisting. To put it in context, it works like this, like these. Acceleration of senses in TV culture makes for rash decisions. Momentary vision. Speed kills. Speed lies. Very fast glimpses of one image mean you learn more in a time period, in a sense speed slows down our attention. Very fast glimpses of different images mean we absorb subliminally a little of many things. Speed is speeding up our attention. So time is material. Can be manipulated. Can exist an one or more speeds simultaneously. Subject. Where is camera, is camera present. Are we aware of camera, who is being looked at, what is happening, are we learning. Is it good to expect to learn. Is there actually such a thing as a valid subject. Does it matter. To be aware is to exist on levels simultaneously trusting none as finite.” Genesis P. Orridge, “Three Absent Guesses”, Edinburgh Film Festival programme notes, 1978
David Larcher, Mare’s Tail, 1969, colour, “Pierre Boulez came to a screening of sound, 143m Mare’s Tail at Robert Street once. Simon “From one flick of the mare’s tail came Hartog said, “Oh, I sent my father to see Mare’s Tail”, his father was an impresario an unending stream of images out of for people like Joan Sutherland and which was crystalised the milky way. Pierre Boulez, and it turned out that Primitive, picaresque cinema.” (David Boulez came and was sat behind us. I’d Larcher) been living in trucks and I’d just come up and it happened to be the same day. I MARE’S TAIL went along and found this old tramp called Eric – this famous character who “Now you see it, now you don’t. Waiting was around in those days, early ’70s – room cinema from the mountain top to and took him along. We were sitting there the car park, an alternative to television. and then I suddenly realised Boulez was The good, the bad and the indifferent. behind. After half an hour he said, “C’est Some consider it self-indulgent but me le perfection,” and walked out with has a duty to itself. Bring what you Simon’s father!” expect to find. Not structural but starting David Larcher, interview with Mark in the beginning from the Webber, 2001 beginning…organic…prima materia…impressionable massa confusa…out of which some original naming and ordering processes spring…they are not named, but rather nailed into the celluloid. “Please don’t expect me to answer the question I’m having a hard time not falling out of this chair” syndrome.” David Larcher, Arts Council FilmMakers on Tour catalogue, 1980 “Mare’s Tail is an epic flight into inner space. It is a 2 and 3/4 hour visual accumulation in colour, the film-maker’s personal odyssey, which becomes the odyssey of each of us. It is a man’s life transposed into a visual realm, a realm of spirits and demons, which unravel as mystical totalities until reality fragments. Every movement begins a journey. There are spots before your eyes, as when you look at the sun that flames and burns. We look at distant moving forms and flash through them. We drift through suns; a piece of earth phases over the moon. A face, your face, his face, a face that looks and splits into shapes that form new shapes that we rediscover as tiny monolithic monuments. A profile as a full face. The moon again, the flesh, the child, the room and the waves become part of a hieroglyphic language… Mare’s Tail is an important film because it expresses life. It follows Paul Klee’s idea that a visually expressive piece adds “more spirit to the seen” and also “makes secret visions visible”. Like other serious films and works of art, it keeps on seeking and seeing, as the film-maker does, as the artist does. It follows the transience of life and nature, studying things closely, moving into vast space, coming in close again. The course it follows is profoundly real and profoundly personal: Larcher’s trip becomes our trip to experience. It cannot be watched impatiently, with expectation; it is no good looking for generalization, condensation, compli-
“Talla is the most narrative/subjective film I have yet made. Because all the material was shot by me in a week or so it has location continuity, which becomes very important in the film. The pace of the cutting is still fast and images still work from perception to conception or perhaps in this film – to ‘feeling’. However, there is no consistent building up of pace and the fast-cut pieces are held within pauses so that there are often ‘clusters’ of images diving out of a mainly calm field.” Malcolm Le Grice, Interfunktionen 4, March 1970
“In one long take, a girl whose face we see in close-up throughout, smokes and excites herself, her eyes resting at moments on the camera as if in a supplication which is also an utterly resigned accusation of film-maker and spectator alike. Not for their curiosity, which may after all be far from devoid or reverence for the human mystery, but for a willful self-withholding which is the standard human relationship. Here are three solitudes, and the film’s climax occurs after the girl’s, in her uneasy satiety, a convulsion returning her, and us, to an accentuation of the nothing from which she fled.” Ray Durgnat, Sexual Alienation in the “persist vb. (intr.) 1. (often foll. by in) to Cinema, 1972 continue steadfastly or obstinately despite opposition or difficulty. 2. to conWINDMILL II tinue to exist or occur without interup“A reflexiveness using the camera shutter tion: the rain persisted throughout the as a technical referent can be seen in night. bridge n. 1. A structure that spans Welsby’s Windmill II. The camera is and provides a passage over a road, rail-
Introductory programme notes by Mark Webber, with thanks to Al Rees. Excerpted paragraphs on each film were assembled by Travis Miles and Mark Webber. Copyright remains with their original authors.
LONDON FILM-MAKERS CO-OP
94 CHARING CROSS ROAD LONDON WC2 PRESS CONFERENCE date: thursday 20th october 1966 time: 11 a m place: better books new compton street shop (adjoining 94 charing X rd) announcing: the foundation of the london film-makers cooperative new member of the international association of film co-operatives the movement: avant-garde low budget non-commercial films are today being made here in london in greater numbers than most people realise similar groups of young film-makers are active in both the united states and countries throughout europe seeking to free and therefore widen this art-form from the ties of industry and high finance which have bound it so far now with the formation of the london film-makers co-op an important link in the world-wide chain of non-commercial ‘underground’ film-making is established at the press conference plans will be outlined for a major london festival of ‘underground’ films from around the world london film-makers co-operative magazine CINIM no 1 will appear in a fortnight born on october 13th london film-makers cooperative has already held one highly successful all-night viewing of ‘underground’ films to capacity audience harvey matusow: chairman paul francis bob cobbing: joint secretaries
SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS AND DEVELOPMENTS 1966-76
A DETAILED GUIDE TO THE PERIOD
events at Better Books, organised by Bob Cobbing & Gustav Metzger – screenings include Kurt Kren’s Actionist films and John Latham’s Speak – nature of event leads to significant media and public attention Robert Fraser Gallery has prints of experimental film and will not loan them for screenings – desperate to get promised New American Cinema films – Co-op use Spontaneous Festival profits to buy 6 films from Robert Pike’s Creative Film Society including works by Ian Hugo, Kuri, Al Sens, Paul Bartel, Scott Bartlett, Robert Pike – by this time Co-op have approximately 8 hours of films, and British film-makers slowly begin to start making work Matusow thrown out of Co-op due to suspicion of motives based on alleged pilfering from Spontaneous Festival receipts – replaced by new executive committee of Cobbing, Dwoskin, Hartog, Trevor Peters, John Collins 29 APRIL 1967 “14-Hour Technicolor Dream”, hippy London’s gathering of the tribes, at Alexandra Palace – intended as fund raiser for IT but too many tickets were given away for free – live bands inc. Pink Floyd, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Alexis Korner, The Pretty Things, The Move, plus happenings (Yoko Ono), films and light shows – BBC TV make the documentary “Man Alive: What Is A Happening?” at the event more ‘serious’ work at Arts Lab – during 1968 Stan Vanderbeek, Gregory Markopolous (Gammelion), Warren Sonbert and Marguerite Paris (representing Millennium Film Workshop and showing Charles Levine) all present shows, though none deposit films for Coop distribution. JANUARY 1968 John Collins presents screening at psychedelic club Middle Earth which was raided by police – Collins impulsively moves event to basement of planned “Boooooks” store which was also raided after complaints from residents – leads to the loss of lease for the new shop and Collins again parts company with Cobbing and the Co-op 30 JANUARY – 27 FEBRUARY 1968 Malcolm Le Grice, a painter who had graduated from the Slade in 1963, takes Curtis to the “Young Contemporaries 1968” show at the Royal Institute Galleries which includes Photo Film (Based on Muybridge) by Fred Drummond, Horizon by Lutz Becher and work by other St. Martins students of Le Grice many of these film-makers had been Markopoulos and Martial Raysse clearly moving in this direction before similar North American work had arrived 4 OCTOBER 1969 in London New Arts Lab aka Institute for Research into Art & Technology (IRAT) opens – 12-17 NOVEMBER 1968 David Curtis runs the cinema, while Curtis and Dwoskin travel to the six-day Malcolm Le Grice and Carla Liss organ“Europ” (European Co-op) meeting at the ise the Co-op – following an initial conUndependent Film Centre in Munich – tact through Carolee Schneemann, Le film-makers Birgit and Wilhelm Hein Grice persuades American financier invite over 40 colleagues to the meeting, Victor Herbert to donate £3,000 towards which is inconclusive, only leading to the Co-op equipment and purchases Debrie publication of Supervisuell magazine step printer and Houston-Fewless (edited by Klaus Schoener) – plans for a neg/reversal processor – installed by European co-op had evolved from discus- crane, the equipment damages the adjoinsions initiated by P. Adams Sitney and ing pub forcing Le Grice and Drummond Shirley Clarke at Knokke – Curtis sees to fix the brickwork – during IRAT periRohfilm (W+B Hein) and recognises aes- od LFMC filmmakers make many signifthetic similarities with Le Grice, whose icant works Talla is also screened – at this time Germany has 3 regional co-ops, as well Annabel Nicolson moves to London, as P.A.P. (Progressive Art Productions starts to visit Co-op and becomes distribution and print sales) – Austrian, involved in IRAT Gallery – had already Dutch and Italian co-ops also present at made first film Abstract No. 1 under meeting influence of Len Lye / Norman McLaren and later significantly influences trend to NOVEMBER 1968 expanded and participatory film pieces Carla Liss returns to New York and negotiates with Mekas – agreement to send the NOVEMBER 1969 NAC prints from the previous European ‘RAT Cinema’ opens with several screenings of tour to London on condition that Liss will Mare’s Tail (which is distributed by Other manage them – Bob Cobbing demands an Cinema, not the Co-op) – Open Screenings “Extraordinary General Meeting” (some held every Tuesday – projection at IRAT done resentment at the hiring of an American) mostly by Fred Drummond, Al Deval, Graham Malcolm Le Grice mounts his exhibition “Location? Duration?” in the Arts Lab gallery – large paintings, constructions, drawings and films – his screenings on 1 & 2 November include recent works completed on new printing / processing equipment which hint at Co-op’s materialist direction for next few years 18 NOVEMBER 1968 David Curtis and 10 others resign from Arts Lab following disagreements with Jack Moore over the future direction of the organisation – Sandy Daley takes over management of cinema – Arts Lab is forced to close by bad debts six months later 26 NOVEMBER 1968 At the Co-op meeting, Bob Cobbing, Philip Crick and John Latham resign – Cobbing replaced as treasurer by Le Grice – by late ’69 Dwoskin and Hartog have also left, severing ties with early Better Books community Following the Arts Lab walk-out, Co-op again has no permanent base – film collection is housed at Covent Garden flat of David Curtis and Biddy Peppin, printing / processing equipment in Malcolm Le Grice’s garage in Harrow, mail goes via address of Carla Liss and Nicholas Albery DECEMBER 1968 Co-op holds several fundraising screenings in late ’68 – early ’69 including those at All Saints Hall in Ladbroke Grove and Living Arts Workshop, Surrey EARLY 1969 Carolee Schneemann arrives in London (stays until 1973, at one point living in a tent outside Co-op) – prints Plumb Line at Co-op – Schneemann is one of several Americans who wind up in London to avoid Vietnam War, and who will graduate toward the Co-op inc. Barbara Schwartz and Lynne Tilman
Plans to use Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre Excerpted from a work-in-progress, with (set up by Jim Haynes) for late night particular bias toward the early formative independent screenings – new Co-op draft constitution includes renamed magyears azine (Cinim) and outlines structure of the organisation 1966 Bob Cobbing (a concrete poet who had 13 OCTOBER 1966 previously organised film societies and other arts clubs in Hendon and Finchley) London Film-Makers’ Co-operative left teaching in 1965 to work in paper- (LFMC) officially formed at meeting at back department of Better Books shop on Better Books: Matusow as chairman, New Compton Street (around the corner Cobbing and Francis secretaries – Co-op from 94 Charing Cross Road) – organises draft telegram to Mekas, declaring intenCinema 65 film club there showing for- tion to “shoot shoot shoot” – unlikely that eign, experimental, non-commercial and the telegram was ever sent, it may just unknown films – Ray Durgnat, Philip have been mocked-up by Hartog for Crick, John Collins in frequent atten- reproduction in Cinim and elsewhere dance at regular Friday night screenings – in ’65 the screenings are meant to provoke and encourage; by ’66, it becomes apparent that more coherent organisation is needed as more people become interested in making and distributing films – films usually projected in the shop (surrounded by books), and only occasionally in the basement (which was used for poetry, exhibitions and theatre / happenings, such as Jeff Nuttall’s People Show) MARCH 1966 Jonas Mekas posts an open letter to New York Film-Makers’ Co-operative members stating that, through the persistence of Barbara Rubin, a London Co-op is forming and will be run by Barry Miles, and based at Indica (a bookstore and gallery on Southampton Row) – planned film fundraiser at Albert Hall (following on from the “Wholly Communion” poetry reading, which featured Ginsberg, 15 OCTOBER 1966 Ferlinghetti, and Trocchi the previous year) – talk of establishing London Co-op First official Co-op screening forms part of the Roundhouse Rave – launch party as base for European distribution of IT (International Times) newspaper held at the Roundhouse – includes Pink MAY 1966 Mekas says in second letter that the Floyd, Soft Machine and 6-hour film proLFMC will start in July – plans to spend gramme featuring Balch, Dwoskin, and $2,000 on prints for 3 programmes for Latham – IT, the press organ for the Albert Hall show in June (the show never British cultural underground was pubhappened) – Co-op committee at this lished by Jim Haynes, John Hopkins time: Bob Cobbing, Phillip Crick, John (Hoppy), Barry Miles and Jack Moore, Collins, Paul Francis, Simon Hartog, Ray and edited by Tim McGrath Durgnat, Michael O’Casey, Les Philby, 20 OCTOBER 1966 Stewart Kington – general ethos is an enthusiasm for filmmaking (in addition to Matusow’s presence secures good attenviewing) despite a lack of knowledge or dance to the press conference which announces the Co-op at their Better experience Books HQ – subsequent article in Town Harvey Matusow arrives from New York, magazine proclaims Steve Dwoskin, where he had been involved in fringes of Andrew Meyer, Simon Hartog, Bob underground scene – had previously Cobbing, and Matusow “some of spent time in jail for perjury during London’s most active underground filmMcCarthy trials – an incorrigible hustler, makers” he got things done but aroused much sus31 OCTOBER – 5 NOVEMBER 1966 picion “Spontaneous Festival of Underground Films” at Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre – 6 JUNE 1966 Approximately 20-25 people attend 2 Co- day long schedule includes films by op planning meetings – draft code of Dwoskin, Keen, Balch, Matusow, Meyer practice drawn up by Miles, Cobbing, and London School of Film Technique Jim Haynes, Paul Francis, M. Ellis, Peter students as well as significant internaWhitehead and Matusow (who is named tional work by Anger, Brakhage, Mekas as secretary) using Better Books address etc – just about every piece of experimental film that was available in London as base (from Co-op, BFI, Connoisseur, Contemporary Films distribution) is 1 JULY 1966 Letter from Paul Francis to Mekas shown – followed by 6 nights of Open announces Co-op is being set up inde- Screenings at Better Books – first issue of pendent of Better Books and Indica – by IT includes 4 page supplement on the reply receives Western Union cable on event 11th with message “GOOD START AND NOVEMBER 1966 GOOD SPEED WE ARE WITH YOU” signed Brakhage, Breer, Brooks, First issue of Cinim is published; edited Emshwiller, Jacobs, Markopoulos, by Phillip Crick, designed by Lawrie Mekas, Vanderbeek, Brigante, Clarke, Moore, and published by the Co-op – Coop has about 50 members and distributes Rogosin films by Dwoskin and Meyer – First LFMC bulletin distributed to members 12 JULY 1966 Co-op Committee meeting at which a 5 26 NOVEMBER 1966 page draft constitution is written including plans for screenings, distribution, Matusow complains to Mekas by letter newsletter and quarterly magazine (then that US visitors gravitate to Indica called Reel) – Durgnat, Francis, Hartog, “although Miles has never been to a CoMatusow, Leonard Foreman, R. Hudson, op meeting” – a later letter from Barbara and Jeff Keen write Mekas again explain- Rubin to IT staff indicates that NY filming preference to establish independent makers reluctant to send films to London base despite friendly competition of the 2 because of Matusow’s involvement bookstores – Open Screenings start to outnumber pre-selected programmes at NOVEMBER 1966-JANUARY 1967 Co-op holds 11 Open Screenings and Better Books many other programmes at Better Books SUMMER 1966 CHRISTMAS 1966 David Curtis graduates from the Slade summer ’66 and travels to New York to Hoppy opens UFO club on Tottenham see films – on his return he frequents Court Road and David Curtis begins film Better Books and helps with film shows – screenings, which first augment light a week of Open Screenings at the London shows on Friday nights, in between live Free School is presented as part of the performances by psychedelic rock groups Notting Hill Fayre – Steve Dwoskin, on a Fulbright Scholarship to London College JANUARY 1967 of Printing, brings his early films with him from New York – meeting with John LFMC Bulletin Number 2 notes that film Latham leads to screening at the Fayre, supply for exhibition is ‘drying up’ – Coseen by Cobbing – Co-op is by now op screenings become repetitive due to established as a group though not offithe lack of available films cially formed
LONDON FILMMAKERS COOPERATIVE
13A PRINCE OF WALES CRESCENT LONDON NW1 TEL. 267-4907 PRESS RELEASE The London Filmmakers Cooperative will inaugurate its cinema which was built by Coop filmmakers on 10 of September at 4:00p.m. with a press showing of new films from the Film Coop library at its new premises: 13a Prince of Wales Crescent. Many of the films to be shown will be having their first public screening in England. A number of the films have been processed and printed by the filmmakers on Coop Workshop equipment. The Filmmakers’ Coop is a non-profit organization formed to help independent filmmakers in production and distribution of their films. It is organized and run cooperatively by the filmmakers themselves. The Coop has the largest noncommercial library of English, American and European experimental, ‘avant garde’ or underground films in Europe and England. The Coop Workshop is a place where independent filmmakers can experiment freely while avoiding exhorbitant production costs. The workshop has facilities for processing, printing and editing 16mm and 8mm film. Many of the films screened at the ‘press show’ will be shown at the Coop Cinema during the course of the year. The films will also be screened in London (and other parts of England) at such places as the New Cinema Club, and at art schools, clubs and film s ocieties. Underground or independently made films rarely get much press coverage in England, even by the ‘underground’ press, so that all too often really fine, important, interesting, original or outrageous films get a tiny audience that hardly pays for the cost of the screening. This is partly due to the fact that people have never heard of the film or filmmaker before. We hope this showing will generate some coverage of these films. It would be especially good if something could be written about the films prior to their public showings. We will distribute a 1971-72 Coop Cinema program and up o n request can let you know where and when Coop films will be shown elsewhere. Th e new Coop Catalogu e is also available upon request.
LATE FEBRUARY 1968 Le Grice shows Castle One (The Light JULY 1967 Bulb Film) at Arts Lab under pseudonym Second issue of Cinim (edited by Philip “Minima Maas” and becomes directly Crick, designed and produced by Steve involved with Co-op activities – Curtis Dwoskin, published by the Co-op) and Le Grice (with Drew Elliot) draw up plans for processing/printing equipment SUMMER 1967 to be housed at Arts Lab UFO club closes (later to be revitalised at the Roundhouse) – Jim Haynes and Jack 17 MARCH 1968 Henry Moore lease 182 Drury Lane for “Battle of Grosvenor Square” antithe Arts Lab Vietnam War demonstration is documented by a group of Co-op filmmakers AUGUST 1967 including Dwoskin, Hartog and Michael Co-op Bulletin No. 5 announces plans for Nyman – some footage sold to BBC TV lecture series on various aspects of film- news making to encourage production – John Collins made executive officer of Co-op, APRIL 1968 but is later asked to leave for allegedly Curtis and Hartog arrange 12 city univerembezzling profits from Cinim sity tour for P. Adams Sitney’s massive “Travelling Avant-Garde Film 18 AUGUST 1967 Exposition” that premieres at the NFT Negotiated by Curtis, Cobbing and Co-op 22-28 April – tour has an huge effect on hold first screening at Drury Lane Arts burgeoning critics and film-makers Lab (before its official opening) around the country and is first major opportunity to see this work in England – SEPTEMBER 1967 Curtis again tries to secure NAC tour Tony Godwin sells Better Books to prints for Coop – to coincide with Essex Collins Publishers who halt all cultural University screenings, Simon Field and activities – Cobbing given one month’s Peter Sainsbury publish only issue of notice to leave – Film collection moves Platinum temporarily to Dwoskin’s flat in Notting Hill – office to Cobbing’s flat, then 17-18 MAY 1968 Hartog’s, then Curtis & Biddy Peppin’s “Parallel Cinema” meeting at ICA to discuss the possibility of an independent dis25 SEPTEMBER 1967 tribution collective – over 100 people Arts Lab opens and includes theatre, cin- present including Marc Karlin (Cinema ema, coffee shop, gallery – Haynes asks Action, later Berwick St Collective), Curtis to run cinema in basement – opens Peter Block (24 Frames Distribution), with disastrous week long run of Echoes Derek Hill (New Cinema Club), Ron of Silence by Peter Emanuel Goldman – Orders and Tony Wickert (Angry Arts, Open Screenings held there every later Liberation Films), John McWilliam Tuesday (Electric Cinema) and Tattooists International (Dick Fontaine et al) – 26 SEPTEMBER 1967 meeting leads to a Parallel Cinema inforMalcolm Le Grice present to see Ray mation office being established at ICA – Durgnat introduce films by Kurt Kren at committee (led by Philip Drummond) ICA – Curtis initiates plans for film forms with intention to establish a circuit workshop at Arts Lab – 2 Co-op pro- of 50 ‘electric’ cinemas, distribute packgrammes at Arts Lab in October, plus ages of short films, and provide a central Peter Kubelka in person at ICA (arranged booking agency for independent 16mm by Dwoskin and Cobbing) before screen- films – Godard’s Le Gai Savoir is chosen ings cease following closure of Better as a test film toward establishing the cirBooks on 2 October – Co-op screenings cuit – as a direct development, Peter at ICA demonstrate its independence Sainsbury and Nick Hart-Williams estabfrom the Arts Lab and reluctance to move lish The Other Cinema in 1970, which organisation there – beginning of split becomes the most active and successful between ex-Better Books and Arts Lab of the independent distributors, repregroup’s different views on how the Co-op senting Godard, Herzog, Straub plus should develop – 41 films in Co-op dis- Dwoskin and many political and third tribution library at this point world filmmakers AUTUMN 1967 Co-op films shown at Liverpool Bluecoat Arts Forum festival, who also award money for the completion of films by Steve Dwoskin, Simon Hartog, Jeff Keen, David Larcher, John Latham and Roland Lewis – Co-op encourages a shift to filmmaking rather than film watching – Anthony ‘Scotty’ Scott begins to assemble The Longest Most Meaningless Movie in the World, an endless film entirely constructed by the progressive inclusion of footage found around Soho production houses OCTOBER 1967 Opposition to Jonas Mekas who proposes that he, Stan Brakhage, Ken Kelman, P. Adams Sitney (a group that would later form Anthology Film Archives’ controversial “Essential Cinema” committee) will select New American Cinema films for European distribution – Jonas plans to arrive with films in September ’67 (he didn’t) – Ray Durgnat briefly Co-op chairman, Ron Geesin replaces Paul Francis as joint secretary with Bob Cobbing
Ewens and Mike Leggett – access to own theatre space provides filmmakers with more freedom to experiment with projection and expanded cinema – English Film-Makers’ series showcases new films coming out of the workshop – Peter Weibel & Valie Export, Wilhelm & Birgit Hein, Warren Sonbert and other international filmmakers present shows during this period
Curtis travels to USA for 2 weeks – goes to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles to gather material for his book Experimental Cinema, which will be written over next 18 months
FURTHER READING A BRIEF BIBLIOGRAPHY
BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS Berke, Joseph (editor) Counter Culture: The Creation of an Alternative Society (Peter Owen, 1969) Curtis, David (editor) A Directory of British Film & Video Artists (Arts Council/University of Luton Press, 1995) Curtis, David Experimental Cinema: A FiftyYear Evolution (Studio Vista, 1971) Dickinson, Margaret (editor) Rogue Reels: Oppositional Film in Britain, 1945-90 (BFI, 1999) Durgnat, Raymond Sexual Alienation in the Cinema (Studio Vista, 1972) Dusinberre, Peter du Kay (Deke) English Avant-Garde Cinema (unpublished thesis, 1977) Dwoskin, Stephen Film Is… The International Free Cinema (Peter Owen, 1975) Gidal, Peter (editor) Structural Film Anthology (BFI, 1976) Gidal, Peter Materialist Film (Routledge, 1989) Hein, Birgit Film Im Underground (Ullstein Verlag, 1971) Le Grice, Malcolm Abstract Film and Beyond (Studio Vista, 1977) Le Grice, Malcolm Experimental Cinema in the Digital Age (BFI, 2001) MacDonald, Scott A Critical Cinema 2 (University of California Press, 1992) MacDonald, Scott A Critical Cinema 3 (University of California Press, 1998) Mekas, Jonas New American Cinema Group and Film-Makers’ Cooperative(s): The Early Years (Anthology Film Archives, 1999) Mudie, Peter “London Film-Makers’ Co-operative” (unpublished work-in-progress) O’Pray, Michael (editor) The British AvantGarde Film 1926 to 1995: An Anthology of Writings (Arts Council/University of Luton Press, 1996 Rees, A.L. A History of Experimental Film and Video (BFI, 1999) Walker, John A. John Latham: The Incidental Person, His Art and Ideas (Middlesex University Press, 1995) CATALOGUES AND EXHIBITION PROGRAMMES First International Underground Film Festival (NFT, 1970) A Survey of the Avant-Garde in Britain (Gallery House, 1972) Second International Avant-Garde Film Festival (NFT/ICA, 1973) First Festival of Independent British Cinema (ICW/Arnolfini, 1975) Festival of Expanded Cinema (ICA, 1976) Arte Inglese Oggi: 1960-76 (British Council, Milan, 1976) Derby Independent Film Awards (Derby Playhouse, 1976) Perspectives on British Avant-Garde Film (Hayward Gallery, 1977) A Perspective on English Avant-Garde Film (Arts Council/British Council, 1978) New British Avant-Garde Films (Edinburgh Film Festival, 1978) Film As Film: Formal Experimentation in Film, 1910-1975 (Hayward Gallery, 1979) Film London (NFT/LFMC, 1979) Unpacking 7 Films (Arts Council, 1980) The Other Side: European Avant-Garde Cinema 1960-1980 (American Federation of Arts, 1983) Light Years: A Twenty Year Celebration (LFMC, 1986) Live In Your Head (Whitechapel, 2000) Film-Makers On Tour (Arts Council, 1977, 1980) Independent Cinema One: Directory of Independent British Cinema (1978) National Film Theatre calendars and programme notes (1960-1980) Progressive Art Productions catalogue (1969) Light Cone distribution catalogue (1987) London Film-Makers’ Co-operative distribution catalogue (1968, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1978, 1993) PERIODICALS Cinim, Platinum, Afterimage, Independent Cinema, Cinemantics, Cinema Rising, Readings, Screen, Undercut, Filmwaves, Films and Filming, Sight and Sound, Art & Artists, Studio International, Time Out, International Times
FILM CO-OP WORKSHOP NEW ARTS LAB ETC.
DEAR ALL, PLEASE EXCUSE THE LAST WET COMMUNICATION FROM HERE AND DIG OUT ALL THE ENTHUSIASM YOU ONCE HAD( HOPING IT HASNT BEEN TOTALLY DISIPITATED BY RECENT NON-HAPPENINGS) WE NEED YOU YOURMEMBERSHIP (YES AND THE BREAD YOU HAVNT PAID YET) YOUR ACTIVITY YOUR DISCUSIONS DICISIONS THOUGHTS QUESTIONS YOUR LEARNING AND TEACHING YOUR PRESENCE YOUR
I HAVE YOUR NAME BECAUSE YOU WERE ONCE INTERESTED IN THE FILM CO-OP. IF YOUR NO LONGER INTERESTED SILENCE ( BYE-BYE) IF YOU ARE GET IN TOUCH STILL INTERESTED WITH ME( GARETH COOK) HELP ME MAKE THE WORKSHOP YOUR WORKSHOP THATS WHY IM HERE ACTUALITY,S TESTS ARE BEING RUN ON BOTH THE PRINTER AND THE PROCESSOR TO DETERMINE THE BEST EXPOSURE/DEV.SPEED FOR PRINT MATERIAL WE NEED ACURATELY EXPOSED NON VITAL CAMERA STOCK TO RUN SIMILAR TESTS ON TO DETERMINE BEST DEV.SPEED FOR ORIGINAL CAMERA WORK I ANTICIPATE THIS WILL BE COMPLETED FIRST IT WOULD DEPEND WHO WANTED WHAT FIRST AND WHO CAME AND DID IT SO FAR YOU ARE JUST NAMES ON A LIST TO ME ( BAR4OR5) I AM “IN RESIDENCE” – TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 12.30-6.00&& ALSO EITHER SATURDAY OR SUNDAY 12.30-6.00 GIVE ME A RING AND SAY WHEN YOULL BE HERE AND ILL ARRANGE TO BE HERE OUTSIDE THOSE TIMES IF YOU HAVE CAMERA STOCK TO BRING IT IN DEVELOP IF YOU HAVE DEVELOPED STOCK TO BRING IT IN PRINT BUT BRING EFFORTS YOURSELF IDEARS
Derek Hill starts New Cinema Club and shows films initially at Mermaid Theatre SEPTEMBER 1966 and ICA – Vaughan-Rogosin Films start FEBRUARY 1967 Destruction In Art Symposium (DIAS) at to buy American experimental work for venues throughout London includes Matusow complains to Mekas that the UK distribution, including Anger, Brakhage, Kuchar and Warhol NOVEMBER 1967 Bob Cobbing and John Collins announce plans for new bookshop and arts centre called “Boooooks” at 80 Long Acre – to include a cinema plus sound facilities and editing equipment (they call it an “Eventure Room”) – and write to American Cinema filmmakers asking for prints 22 NOVEMBER 1967 List of films in distribution includes 60 titles, few of which are home-grown
David Curtis fails to persuade the Slade to host Co-op screenings, and is refused an application to the Arts Council to assist with screenings and lectures in England and Europe – negotiations with Camden Council for their support of the New Arts Lab – most Co-op screenings SPRING 1968 during this time are at the Electric Le Grice and Hartog complete new draft Cinema on Portobello Road, organised constitution for Co-op which includes by Liss provisions for liberal division of labour, and shared equipment and facilities – 25-26 JANUARY 1969 agree to appoint a paid secretary for more Conference of Arts Labs organised by efficient management to generate revenue Phillippa Jeffrey and the Cambridge Arts for film production Lab – attended by representatives from Drury Lane Arts Lab, LFMC, Oxford JULY 1968 Film-Makers’ Co-op, Artists’ Information Peter Gidal (having arrived from New Register, Time Out, Release, Cybernetic York the previous month) attends screen- Theatre, Portable Theatre, Edinburgh ing at Arts Lab and brings along two of Combination and the Arts Council – his own films – Room (Double Take) organisations share information and disscheduled to be shown in 2 week’s time, cuss collaboration – Tony Rayns and when Curtis, Hartog, Le Grice, Dwoskin, Roger Hammond meet with Co-op for Fred Drummond see and are impressed first time with Gidal’s work – 8mm films by Goldsmith’s sculpture student Mike MAY 1969 Dunford are also well received – many Last issue of Cinim (edited by Simon new film-makers begin to emerge without Hartog, produced by Steve Dwoskin, any substantial knowledge of previous published by the Coop) avant-gardes – aesthetic and conceptual trends that later become specific to the Camden Council offers building at 1 LFMC start to surface Robert Street for temporary use, rent-free – IRAT (Institute for Research in Art & SUMMER 1968 Technology) is formed as an umbrella After his tour ends, Sitney returns to NY organisation to administrate different with all films from the NAC Exposition groups that will occupy the space – Joe tour –– David Curtis meets Carla Liss, Tilson and J.G. Ballard on advisory board American artist and friend of Mekas who – LFMC members spend the summer renwill become central to Co-op organisa- ovating the space, which include many tional structure – First LFMC distribution different artistic groups and encourage catalogue published (loose metal binding, cross-disciplinary work – cinema (David assembled by Liss and Curtis, cover by Curtis), LFMC (Carla Liss & Malcolm Dwoskin) – list approximately 100 films Le Grice), video (TVX / John Hopkins & plus addendum of experimental films dis- Til Roemer), theatre (Roland Miller, later tributed by Vaughan-Rogosin – no doubt Victoria Miller & Martin Russell) mime because of present state of flux, no Co-op (Will Spoor), music (Hugh Davies), phoaddress or personnel names are printed – tography (Ian Robertson), gallery (Biddy Sitney had advocated integration of the 2 Peppin & Pamela Zoline, later Judith active groups and there are soon propos- Clute), printing (John Collins) electronics als towards uniting Arts Lab and Co-op (David Jeffrey) metal and plastics factions: Arts Lab group: Curtis, Le (Martin Shann, later Bernard Rhodes) Grice, Bennett Yahya, Cordley Coit / Co- and cybernetics (John & Dianne Lifton) – op group: Dwoskin, Hartog, Cobbing, renovations to the building are completed Collins by September Dwoskin and Hartog leave the Co-op organisation – Dwoskin will later remove his LFMC-distributed films to The Other Cinema 25 AUGUST – 13 SEPTEMBER 1969 Edinburgh Film Festival invites Co-op to present an extended series programmes – includes world premiere of David Larcher’s Mare’s Tail, as well as new work by Le Grice, Drummond, Dunford, Gidal and others – programmes also feature many NAC films, Newsreels and the Italian Co-op – expanded performances by Glasgow’s Exit Group, Le Grice, Fred Drummond and Scotty’s Swiz Events 20 SEPTEMBER 1969 Gimpel Fils Gallery begins a short lived attempt to represent filmmakers and sell prints as art editions, in association with PAP and Edition Claude Givaudan – Peter Gidal is only LFMC filmmaker to participate – screening of selected works at ICA also features films by Robert Beavers, Stan Brakhage, Wilhelm & Birgit Hein, Kurt Kren, Gregory
LOVE GARETH (HOME) 731-0931IRAT RECEP.387-2605 IF THEY CANT/WONT FIND ME LEAVE A MESSAGE AND ’PHONE NO.
AUGUST 1968 Scotty’s Longest Most Meaningless DECEMBER 1967 Movie in the World is over 5hrs of 35mm Knokke-le-Zoute “Exprmntl 4” festival material by the time it is premiered at and competition in Belgium proves a Arts Lab … 10 hours long by 1970 … watershed, whose influence leads to the could still be growing for all we know LFMC establishing itself on an internaSEPTEMBER 1968 tional level – 20 British films submitted, Curtis writes the report “Subsidies to though only 5 shown in competition – Independent Filmmakers: The present sitSteve Dwoskin wins the Solvay Prize, uation and how it might be improved”, and his films Chinese Checkers and which calls for new funding structures – Soliloquy are chosen by P. Adams Sitney Curtis & Le Grice are in favour of workfor his New American Cinema tour – ing with the BFI to secure funding, while Wavelength (Michael Snow) wins first Dwoskin and Hartog strongly resist the prize as Sitney begins to consider his piv- idea otal definition of ‘Structural Film’ – 11 SEPTEMBER 1968 David Curtis regards the festival as a sigFirst LFMC screening of 1968 at the Arts nificant moment for London film-makers, Lab– Mike Dunford and Fred Drummond though Dwoskin and Cobbing play it show new work down, crystallising differences between 19 SEPTEMBER 1968 Dwoskin’s subjective view and Curtis’ (and other’s) increasing attention to Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland at the ICA, a visit that helps to perpetuate a process general shift on part of LFMC practition1968 Following Knokke, Curtis starts to screen ers toward formalist work, although
MISSING IN ACTION
Over the lengthy period of research, only a few films or filmmakers have managed to escape our investigations. One person that has remained elusive to all lines of enquiry was Anthony ‘Scotty’ Scott, maker of The Longest, Most Meaningless Movie in the World, (which is also ‘missing’, despite the fact that it must be at least several weeks long by now). If anyone knows where Scotty might be, or if he should come to light during the course of this exhibition, please point him in our direction! email email@example.com
ANTHONY ‘SCOTTY’ SCOTT
SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT
1970 Le Grice starts to make colour-field films on Coop workshop equipment, beginning with Love Story – his first expanded performance with this material is Horror Film 1 (1971) document underground cinema activity in Britain and later withdraw offer before he is able to decline – BFI appoints Mamoun Hassan as Production Department Supervisor (following Bruce Beresford’s resignation), which marks a shift to funding longer (feature) film production JANUARY-APRIL 1974 Barbara Meter and Peter Gidal collaborate to establish a Dutch touring circuit for Co-op filmmakers – Mike Dunford & Sally Potter, David Dye, Gill Eatherley, Tony Hill, Le Grice, Annabel Nicolson 1973 and William Raban each present shows in Peter Gidal commences teaching at the Amsterdam, Groningen and Utrecht Royal College of Arts – Anne Rees-Mogg establishes a film course at Chelsea MAY 1974 School of Art Malcolm Le Grice takes Co-op films to screen at Millennium Film Workshop in Camden ’73 Festival includes “Festival New York and Carnegie Institute in of British Films – London Film-Makers’ Pittsburgh Co-op Mixed Show” at The Place EARLY 1973 Le Grice invited to join the BFI Production Board (FIPB) to advise on funding – Le Grice and Colin Young prepare a report on state of independent filmmaking in Britain – Screen invite Le Grice to commission and edit articles on experimental film for a future issue, but all are later rejected as they abandoned the planned special issue FEBRUARY 1973 David Curtis joins the Arts Council Film & Video sub-committee (later appointed Assistant Film Officer in 1977) 16-18 MARCH 1973 3 days of Filmaktion events at Gallery House (core group plus David Crosswaite) inc. first performances of Matrix & Gross Fog (Le Grice), Chair Installation (Eatherley) and 2’45” & Diagonal (Raban) – Filmaktion formed as loose collective primarily consisting of Intermission at McCall/Schneemann Co-op screening, 12 June 1974 Photo by Alan Power Eatherley, Le Grice, Nicolson and Raban who develop expanded work for group printer and twin system projector for dubshows JUNE 1974 bing magnetic soundtracks installed – Anthony McCall presents Fire Piece at many film prints made at this time use 11 MAY 1973 Oxford MoMA this equipment (which accounts for the 2 programmes of Co-op films shown at number of magnetic sound prints still in NFT, includes Botham, Crosswaite, Peter Gidal stops programming Co-op distribution) Drummond, Du Cane, Hammond, cinema – Annabel Nicolson takes over Nicolson, Potter and Raban (assisted by Tony Hill) and temporarily Cinema attendance rises during first few closes the space to widen it in order to months and 1975-76 season is very suc5-7 JUNE 1973 better accommodate the expanded works cessful – Lis Rhodes is cinema organiser, 3 programmes at the Tate Gallery under she intends to present – Gidal also stops with help from Annabel Nicolson (perthe title “Film as Structure” organised by writing for Time Out and is replaced by formances) and David Curtis (historical Mick Hartney – 1st screening inc. Tony Rayns – Marjory Botham moves programmes) – Anne Rees-Mogg organFrampton, Kubelka, Sharits, Snow, other into Nicolson’s former position manag- ises open screenings on alternate 2 nights are one-man shows presented by ing distribution Thursdays – William Raban and Guy Gidal and Le Grice Sherwin run the workshop for the first AUGUST 1974 year, and number of members also rises 20-27 JUNE 1973 7 programme retrospective of Steve rapidly – workshop membership fee is Walker Art Gallery “Filmaktion” shows Dwoskin at NFT raised from £1 to £5 (first increase since organised by William Raban and Anthea the move to the Dairy in ’71) – Mary Pat Hinds include Botham, Crosswaite, AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 1974 Leece takes over distribution, assisted by Dunford, Eatherley, Hammond, Le Grice, 24 Frames presents “The New Avant- Deke Dusinberre Nicolson, Pound and Raban – a week of Garde” series of 18 programmes at the screenings, expanded cinema and chil- NFT – showcases films they distribute Special issue of Studio International dren’s workshops – Raban shoots a time- and consists almost exclusively of devoted to “Avant-Garde Film in England lapse film of the event American work (John Du Cane is one of & Europe” – includes Peter Wollen’s few English filmmakers they represent) – polemical article “The Two Avantat the present time they carry approx. 350 Gardes” and “Theory and Definition of film and 50 videotapes – 24 Frames is a Structural/Materialist Film” by Peter commercial distributor directed particu- Gidal – plus articles on or by David larly towards TV sales Curtis, Deke Dusinberre on Expanding Cinema, David Dye, Ron Haselden, 9 NOVEMBER 1974 Malcolm Le Grice on Kurt Kren, and First meeting of the Independent international reports by Birgit Hein, Filmmakers’ Association at the RCA, Barbara Meter and Peter Weibel whose intent is to lobby to promote independent film and video makers and 1976 encourage exchanges between theorists Jonathan Harvey, director of Acme (an and practitioners – organising committee organisation which provides artists with includes Dwoskin, Gidal, Hartog, Nick access to abandoned houses on shortHart-Williams, Marc Karlin, Le Grice, term leases), opens the Acme Gallery in Laura Mulvey and James Scott – initiated Covent Garden – Marilyn Halford works in response to a BBC TV programme by there part time and helps organise film Melvyn Bragg which misrepresents con- events including shows by Lis Rhodes & temporary independent filmmaking prac- Ian Kerr, William Raban and Chris tise in the UK Welsby 25 DECEMBER 19744 JANUARY 1975 “Exprmntl 5” festival at Knokke-Heist – performance and multi-projection work is excluded from competition so Malcolm Le Grice and several others refuse participation – video is included for the first time – Still Life With Pear (Mike Dunford), Line Describing a Cone (Anthony McCall) win awards, William Raban and Marilyn Halford also in competition – Sign (John Du Cane) is not selected though P. Adams Sitney protests for its inclusion 4-11 JANUARY 1976 “Festival of Expanded Cinema” at ICA organised by Deke Dusinberre and Simon Field features 43 artists, both established and new filmmakers – includes works by Steve Farrer, Chris Garratt, Tony Hill, Derek Jarman, Anthony McCall, Annabel Nicolson, William Raban, Lis Rhodes & Ian Kerr, Guy Sherwin, Tony Sinden and many others – new filmmakers starting to come through include Robert Fearns, Rob Gawthrop and Roger Hewins DECEMBER 1972 Le Grice begins to regularly contribute film column “Vision” to Studio International (which continues until 1977) SEPTEMBER 1975 Le Grice and Gidal begin to withdraw from organisational activities (though they stay on the Co-op committee), after mutually deciding to step aside to allow new leaders to direct Co-op initiatives NOVEMBER 1975 LFMC opens at the Piano Factory – Space Studios again occupy part of the building – Co-op uses BFI grant pay first salaries since Carla Liss left in ’71 – projectors that had been used since IRAT in ’69 are replaced – second hand optical First conference of the Independent Filmmakers’ Association (IFA), organised by Simon Hartog, Claire Johnston and Paul Willemen MAY-JUNE 1976 Peter Gidal presents “Structural Films” season at NFT – 18 screenings of international work, with almost half devoted to Co-op members – Structural Film Anthology (edited by Peter Gidal) is published by BFI and includes revised version of Gidal’s “Theory and Definition of Structural/Materialist Film”, excerpt of Le Grice’s forthcoming book Abstract Film and Beyond, and new or reprinted articles by and about filmmakers in the programme
Marc Karlin from UK, among many others, take part in debates – Le Grice and McCall also present expanded cinema work at the Scottish Arts Council Gallery SEPTEMBER 1976 Guy Sherwin writes another application to BFI for catalogue and relocation costs – William Raban resigns from Co-op workshop to teach at St. Martin’s School of Art – Steve Farrer takes over the vacant position – Annabel Nicolson has a second period of running the Co-op cinema SEPTEMBER 1976 LFMC begins to negotiates lease on space above a laundry at 42 Gloucester Avenue, which is owned by British Rail
Rodney Wilson becomes Film Officer at Arts Council and implements funding for AUGUST 1971 artists’ films Second LFMC distribution catalogue (A5, black with pink lettering) features around 400 films, by over 160 filmmakers – distribution is still being managed by Carla Liss and Barbara Schwartz during the transition period
Malcolm Le Grice
JANUARY 1970 At IRAT, 5 days of open live-action and multi-screen events are held, mostly led by Annabel Nicolson, and include Le Grice, Mike Dunford and Sally Potter – this inaugurates a period of intense development of expanded work by the core Carla Liss leaves, thereby severing the LFMC group, quite unique from other last tie to the initial Co-op group and to international examples Jonas Mekas and New York – Gidal immediately insists that 50% of all future Issue one of Cinemantics (published by group bookings from the LFMC must be John Mathews) English films, a policy that leads to a greater international presence for Co-op JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1970 works – prior to this, majority of Larry Kardish (from New York Museum European and domestic bookings had of Modern Art) tours Britain for 2 weeks consisted of New American Cinema films with 3 1/2 hours of films from US and – Lynne Tilman manages distribution for Canada a short time APRIL 1970 New Co-op committee consists of J.G. Ballard exhibits crashed cars in the Malcolm Le Grice (chairman, workshop IRAT gallery organiser), Peter Gidal (treasurer, cinema organiser), Mike Dunford (secretary) MAY 1970 3 week season of late night underground OCTOBER 1971 films at Roundhouse includes premiere of Opening of Co-op workshop at the Dairy, John Chamberlain’s 7-screen film Wide which is run by Le Grice and his former Point, produced by Alan Power (who also students – first film produced there is funded films by Dwoskin and Larcher) Mike Leggett’s Shepherd’s Bush – during this period widespread use of cheap JUNE 1970 German Orwo stock (much of it stolen Mike Leggett and Ian Breakwell present from the BBC) accounts for mid-grey expanded shows at IRAT inc. Sheet and cast on many of the films Unword 1972 SUMMER 1970 John Du Cane and Peter Gidal write regBFI tries to negotiate a take-over of Co- ularly for Time Out over next 3 years – op distribution their promotion of Co-op and related screenings at the NFT increase attenSEPTEMBER 1970 dance and awareness of activities Curtis, Field and Albie Thoms organise “1st International Underground Film Gabrielle Stubbs and Annabel Nicolson Festival”, a week of screenings at manage distribution from 1972-74 – National Film Theatre which attracts a institutional rentals increase as avantlarge number of international filmmakers garde film stops being ‘underground’ and inc. Kurt Kren, Peter Kubelka, Paul becomes more accepted as an art form Sharits, Jonas Mekas, Wener Nekes, Tonino de Bernardi – programmes run 21 JANUARY 1972 from 10:30am to past midnight – Time Out publishes a long article on the exhausting and liberal survey of the inter- Co-op written by Irving Washington, national scene, approx 330 films in 100 comprising a history of the organisation hours – Oh Sensibility performance by and description of the current situation Otto Muehl was banned following public outcry because of plans to slaughter a MAY-JUNE 1972 chicken on the NFT stage – expanded Hamburg Filmschau includes 2 programmes of LFMC work
SEPTEMBER 1971 Official opening of the Co-op at the Dairy – Peter Gidal (completing his postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Art) becomes responsible Dairy cinema programmes with support of Roger Hammond – David Crosswaite is main projectionist – discussion becomes an increasingly important part of screenings (which may have led to a greater emphasis on literary discourse) – under Gidal, the cinema holds weekly screenings and almost half of the slots are devoted to English-made films – through 1971-72, there is an increasing emphasis on new LFMC work – Co-op survives this period without any funding, all work is done by volunteers and cinema / distribution income covers overheads – no heating and no seating, audience sits on old mattresses on cinema floor
JUNE-JULY 1976 OCTOBER 1975 Berlin Film Festival includes new work Co-op again runs out of money – BFI by Dwoskin, Le Grice and Raban agrees to pay basic running costs to end of year AUGUST 1976 Co-op runs out of distribution catalogues, 10 OCTOBER-11 NOVEMBER 1976 so Deke Dusinberre asks BFI for grant to “LFMC First 10 Years” screening series print new edition, but 2 applications are and party are organised by Deke rejected (next catalogue is not published Dusinberre, with assistance from David until early 1978) Curtis – 4 mixed programmes of work illustrate the diversity of work made in Co-op executive committee at this time and around the Co-op during its first consists of Paul Botham, Mike Dunford, decade Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice, Anne Rees-Mogg, Chris Welsby NOVEMBER 1976 Deke Dusinberre takes over cinema proAfterimage No. 6 special issue gramming, Sherwin continues to run “Perspectives on English Independent workshop (with Steve Farrer) and Cinema” published by Simon Field – becomes acting Executive Representative includes articles by or about Cinema – Co-op receives funds towards imminent Action, Noel Burch, Mike Dunford, Deke relocation from Greater London Council Dusinberre, Steve Dwoskin (by Paul and Gulbenkian Foundation Willemen), Jeff Keen (by Tony Rayns), on Gidal’s Theory (Anne Cottringer), After a prolonged period of fundraising Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen and renovation, the Other Cinema finally open their own theatre on Tottenham 6-9 AUGUST 1976 Street (it closed after a year, later reopenDeke Dusinberre organises the “Derby ing as the Scala) Independent Film Awards” at Derby Playhouse – an attempt to stimulate filmDECEMBER 1976 making outside London – Fuji supplies Mary Pat Leece leaves distribution and is film stock which is awarded to everyone succeeded by Felicity Sparrow – included in programmes – work shown Malcolm Le Grice and others initite displays a wide range of artists, inde- moves to turn Co-op into a charitable pendent and political filmmaking trust, and investigate possibility of beecoming a incorporated company 30 AUGUST-3 SEPTEMBER 1976 Edinburgh Film Festival presents “International Forum on the AvantGarde” organised by Simon Field and Chronology assembled by Mark Webber, edited Peter Wollen – a week of screenings, by Travis Miles. With respect to Peter Mudie expanded cinema and discussions – (on whose manuscript this document was origRegina Cornwell, Hollis Frampton, inally based) and David Curtis (who made a Annette Michelson, Yvonne Rainer, Paul wealth of archival material available for Sharits, Michael Snow and Joyce research). Wieland from USA, Chantal Akerman, If this article contains errors or omissions that Raymond Bellour and Birgit Hein from you can help us correct for the future expanded Europe and Ian Christie, Peter Gidal, edition please email firstname.lastname@example.org
2 JUNE 1972 & 7 JULY 1972 “English Independent Cinema” at NFT, 4 programmes organised by Gidal includes work by 17 filmmakers, inc. Crosswaite, Dwoskin, Hammond, Schwartz and JULY 1973 Schneemann, with two screen films by The Arts Council’s “Committee of Botham, Drummond, Raban & Welsby Enquiry into Films” (aka The Attenborough Report), begun in 1971, is 15 JULY 1972 finally published – leads to establishing River Yar (Raban and Welsby) shown at the Art Film Division at the Arts Council Co-op – a group of new and younger and causes disruption at BFI – Mamoun film-makers begin to work with and Hassan resigns, replaced by Peter through the LFMC including David Sainsbury, who initiates a shift to funding Parsons, Chris Welsby (Chelsea School of experimental film – Arts Council of Art students) and Tim Bruce, Steve Artists’ Film and Video Sub-Committee Farrer, Ian Kerr, Lis Rhodes, John Smith provides the main source of funding for (North East London Polytechnic students Co-op filmmakers’ who seek production of Guy Sherwin) grants during the mid 1970s events by Weibel & Export, Schneemann and Jeff Keen (whose show was invaded by ‘Crazy Otto’ because it wasn’t provocative enough) – Afterimage No. 2 published by Simon Field and Peter Sainsbury to coincide with festival, devoted to articles on avant-garde film DECEMBER 1970 Co-op decides to move out of Robert Street and find its own location, in anticipation of the impending IRAT closure JANUARY 1971 Camden Council offers the abandoned Dairy at 13a Prince of Wales Crescent (building is partly occupied by Space subsidised artists’ studios) – Co-op is given the entire first floor for a cinema, workshop and distribution facilities, its first dedicated base in its 4-year history – many new members becoming involved with Co-op at this time are Le Grice’s former St. Martin’s students – Paul Botham, David Crosswaite, John Du Cane, Gill Eatherley, Roger Hammond, Stuart Pound and William Raban join over the next year – considerable renovations needed at the Dairy take 9 months, shared labour adds to developing collective ideology 27 AUGUST 1972 3-16 SEPTEMBER 1973 Anthony McCall presents Death Watch “Second Festival of Independent AvantBeetle, a fire event at North Weald Garde Film” organised by Simon Field Airfield and David Curtis at NFT (films) and ICA (expanded cinema) – Kurt Kren, Michael LATE 1972 Snow, Joyce Wieland, Jonas Mekas, Ken Supplement to LFMC distribution cata- Jacobs, Barry Gerson, Taka Iimura, Peter logue No. 2 is published (A5, black Kubelka, Valie Export, Peter Weibel and cover, silver lettering) – lists approx 170 others attend from abroad – 105 filmmakadditional films that have been acquired ers represented in programmes that run over past year, majority having been pro- from morning to early morning – duced by British filmmakers Filmaktion group present their last 4 shows as part of the ICA programme – 2-15 OCTOBER 1972 Piero Heliczer runs a week long fringe “Survey of the Avant-Garde in Britain” festival in the Co-op cinema – Austrian curated by Rosetta Brooks at Gallery TV station ORF make a documentary of House, 50 Princes Gate – third part of the the festival exhibiton features film, video, installation and performance – work by many OCTOBER 1973 Co-op filmmakers inc. Du Cane, Tony Rayns’ long review of the 2nd Dwoskin, Gidal, Leggett, McCall, Raban Avant-Garde Festival in Sight & Sound and others but not Crosswaite, Hammond prompts Le Grice to write a letter under and Le Grice – Gallery House is a tem- then pseudonym Mary Lou Grace, ironiporary alternative exhibition space man- cally praising the magazine for finally aged by Rosetta Brooks and Sigi Krauss getting around to acknowledging ‘real’ between Spring 1972 and Summer 1973 film
14 JANUARY 1976 Premiere of David Larcher’s Monkey’s 11-18 FEBRUARY 1975 Birthday at the Co-op – shot over several “First Festival of Independent British years around the world, the film makes Cinema” at the Arnolfini Gallery in extensive use of LFMC workshop equipBristol is organised by ICW (Independent ment Cinema West), led by David Hopkins – many Co-op, political and independents 10-11 FEBRUARY 1976 filmmakers and students travel from all Weekend seminar in response to Wollen’s over the UK to attend – week of events “Two Avant-Gardes” article is organised include screenings, workshops, discus- at the Co-op by Deke Dusinberre – Le sions and expanded work Grice delivers a paper on relationship between theory and practice in his films, 3-21 MARCH 1975 while Gidal and Wollen expand on their “Avant-Garde British Landscape Films” Studio International articles – Tony organised by Deke Dusinberre at Tate Rayns chairs the discussion Gallery, consists of 3 repeating daily programmes plus special evening events preFEBRUARY-MARCH 1976 sented by William Raban, Chris Welsby, “Arte Inglese Oggi” survey of British and Renny Croft – films by Jane Clark, artists organised by British Council at Mike Duckworth and David Pearce also Palazzo Reale, Milan – Richard Cork shown invites David Curtis to advise on film programme which includes Dunford, MARCH 1975 Dye, Gidal, Haselden, Keen, McCall, Camden Council give 6 months notice to Nicolson, Raban, Rhodes, Sherwin and Co-op – announcing intention to reclaim Welsby – several of these go to Italy to the Dairy building for a housing project present expanded events APRIL 1975 Co-op apply for a grants from BFI Group Support Fund and Gulbenkian Foundation for workshop funding –BFI application is turned down but Peter Sainsbury offers to help them re-apply
NOVEMBER 1972 Annabel Nicolson travels to New York, Buffalo, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal with several recent works by Co-op members – her memoir of the trip appears as “Canadian Fragments” in Art “American Underground Film Festival” & Artists, April 1973 at NFT organised by Ken Wlashin and James Lithgow – 7 programmes of mostDECEMBER 1972 ly narrative experimental film Special “Artists’ Films” issue of Art & Artists demonstrates increasing attention 26 MARCH 1971 to film from the fine arts sector – cover is IRAT closed as the building is finally Horror Film 2 by Le Grice – contains reclaimed by Camden Council – Curtis articles by or about, David Dye, Simon withdraws from Co-op organisation Field, Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice and Annabel Nicolson APRIL-AUGUST 1971 Curtis and Field present 3 seasons titled 6 DECEMBER 1972 “Developments of the New Cinema” at Inspired by Art & Artists feature, William NFT – 22 screenings of mostly interna- Raban sends an open letter to British tional work includes Dwoskin / Gidal institutions and arts centres to attract programme and special evening of 2 bookings, which leads to two more events shows devoted to “Double Projection Films from English Filmmakers", which at Gallery House and a Filmaktion week were printed and processed at the Co-op at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (June ’73) – thus begins a period which sees the Co-op reaching out beyond their own MAY 1971 “British Cinema 4: Independent Movie facility Makers” at NFT includes a programme of films by Gidal and Mare’s Tail by 21-30 DECEMBER 1972 Larcher “A Small Festival of Events and Films” at JUNE 1971 Gallery House including expanded work BFI offer Curtis £75 for 3 weeks work to from Le Grice, McCall and Schneemann
MARCH 1976 Co-op makes new application to the restructured BFI for running costs but by receives no subsidy at all for a 4 month period – BFI eventually makes interim payment to cover period until lease on John Du Cane publishes only issue of Fitzroy Road expires – lease is subseMAY 1975 Light One, dedicated to the work of quently extended to December ’76 (CoLe Grice presents programme of LFMC op eventually moves to Gloucester Michael Snow films at the Oberhausen International Avenue in Autumn 1977) Short Film Festival DECEMBER 1973 Le Grice presents LFMC films in MARCH-APRIL 1976 Arts Council “Video Art” show at Le Grice tours USA and Canada as first Stockholm and other Swedish cities Serpentine Gallery includes Ian filmmaker to use British Council’s Breakwell, Mike Dunford, David Hall, “Touring Abroad” scheme which pays LATE 1973 Deke Dusinberre arrives in London – a Mike Leggett, Will Milne, Lis Rhodes international travel for artists’ – Gidal, former student of P. Adams Sitney and and Tony Sinden – at this time, many Leggett, Raban and Welsby also travel to Annette Michelson, he intends to write visual artists were turning to video USA in ’76 – Peter Gidal begins his preshis Master of Philosophy thesis on entation at Museum of Modern Art in JUNE 1975 Structural Film at the University of New York with the statement “I hate Peter Sainsbury meets with Co-op execuLondon but changes his focus to the everything about America, and everytive committee to discuss application – LFMC and English avant-garde – after thing that America stands for.” completing his thesis at the Slade, suggests restructuring Co-op by employDusinberre becomes very involved in Co- ing paid workers – amount of original SPRING 1976 request doubled and re-submitted op organisation in 1976 David Hall proposes the formation of 8 JULY 1975 London Video Arts (later to become 1974 Meeting at Camden Town Hall organised London Electronic Arts) as an organisaPolice raids on Co-op building and by Malcolm Le Grice includes represenWilliam Raban’s home under the tatives from LFMC, Camden Council, tion run by and for video artists and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, apparently Greater London Arts Association, distribution and exhibition of their work – looking for evidence of political activism Gulbenkian Foundation, Space Studios other founder members include David and BFI – Camden Council suggest tem- Critchley, Tamara Krikorian, Stuart and links to the I.R.A. porary 12 month relocation to former Piano Factory at 44a Fitzroy Road and Marshall, Steve Partridge. New LFMC distribution catalogue (A5, Co-op accept the offer later that month – MAY 1976 blue cover, white lettering) lists over 500 building again needs considerable renovation before it can be occupied Le Grice lectures on “Materiality in films and for the first time includes sepaavant-garde film” at State University of AUGUST 1975 rate listings for expanded cinema perNew York, Buffalo, at invitation of Hollis BFI award Co-op first significant grant Frampton and Paul Sharits formances towards running costs
LOCATING THE LFMC
THE FIRST DECADE IN CONTEXT A.L. REES Before the London Filmmaker’s Co-operative was founded, only a few inspired individuals such as Margaret Tait, John Latham and Jeff Keen made experimental 16mm films in the UK during the early 1960s. Filmmaking was costly and timeconsuming, and had little status as a serious art form. With limited technical means, these artists created their own kinds of lyric cinema, hand-painting the film as well as shooting live action. Their films were sadly little known at the time, when even Anthony Balch’s films made in collaboration with William Burroughs had few outlets beyond the London arthouse cinemas run by Balch himself. By the mid 1960s, however, interest in underground film grew across the counter culture. News of the US and European avant-gardes filtered through the underground press and the colour supplements, and film clubs began to show some of the films themselves. The LFMC was begun by a small group of such enthusiasts who screened films at an avant-garde book shop in Charing Cross Road in 1965-66. Shortly afterwards, augmented by David Curtis’ programmes of experimental film at the Drury Lane Arts Lab, it attracted more filmmakers and began to live up to its name. Stephen Dwoskin and Peter Gidal brought from New York an authentic whiff of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Others, like Malcolm Le Grice, used found footage and raw projection as an extension of painting and sculpture. In 1968-69 the filmmakers were in control of the LFMC and more films were being made. When it moved north to Robert Street, on the fringe of Camden Town, in 1969, the LFMC was just one among a cluster of radical arts groups housed by the New Arts Lab, but it was already developing its own ethos as well as the facilities to shoot, process and edit films. With the closure of the Arts Labs, the LFMC split off on its own. It moved successively through a series of former industrial spaces: ‘the Dairy’, ‘the Piano Factory’ and finally ‘the Laundry’, its home in Gloucester Avenue for twenty years. In the crucial years of 1971-75, it occupied austere studios in Prince of Wales Crescent. Each location stamped its shape on the films that were made there, from the meltdown of media in the ‘expanded cinema’ of the two Arts Labs, to a more purist climate at Fitzroy Road. En route, the LFMC effectively invented a new avant-garde genre, the British Structural / Materialist film. Its tough and demanding screening programme often featured the latest work, straight from the workshop. LFMC films looked strikingly handmade. Many films of the early seventies carry distinct traces of their own printing and processing, as in the sparkly film surface that mirrors the watery image of Mike Dunford’s Silver Surfer. Annabel Nicolson pulled the film through the printer to make the colour tapestry of Slides, while successive reprinting of the film leader numerals in Guy Sherwin’s At The Academy creates the illusion of basrelief depth on the flat film surface. Le Grice emerged as a master-printer whose rich overlays of colour primaries for Threshold and Berlin Horse were similar to the loops used in his live-action threeprojector performance in Horror Film. The notion of the direct print survived in later professional lab-printed work by Le Grice and others, and in the images of some who never or rarely used the LFMC workshop, including such different artists as David Larcher, Stephen Dwoskin and Chris Welsby. Larcher’s dissolute, ripe and wandering colour, Dwoskin’s photogenically crisp tones and Welsby’s insistently unmanipulated print, struck direct from the negative, all attest in distinct ways to the primacy of process in the LFMC. These features distinguished the British avant-garde film from its American progenitors, whose films were rarely seen until the American critic P. Adams Sitney toured England with his New American Cinema Exposition in Spring 1968. Six months later, those same films returned to England when Carla Liss took up her post as the LFMC’s first paid employee. With the American work now available in Britain, Liss was able to establish LFMC distribution as a more sustainable operation. Temperamentally, however, the LFMC felt closer to the similarly material-based experimentation in Germany, Austria and Poland. By contrast, the American underground, from Kenneth Anger through Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage, had favoured the personal film of inner consciousness, or ‘psychodrama’. Warhol turned the genre on its head, replacing the subjective dream with the ‘fixed stare’ of the camera-eye. Subsequent films by Paul Sharits, Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, Ken Jacobs and George Landow created a new ‘structural’ avant-garde that had an enduring influence on international filmmakers. The New American Cinema had powerful advocates, including Sitney and Annette Michelson. In their persuasive and informed essays, the medium of experimental film was also a model of mind. For Michelson, the avant-garde captured new forms of appearance and awareness in a radically phenomenological cinema, as exemplified in the self-referential films of Michael Snow. The title of Sitney’s magisterial book “Visionary Film” also stresses the American avant-garde’s subjective moment and its capacity to evoke ideas. By contrast, the British avant-garde was empirical rather than metaphysical. Here, a film was not so much an illusion in the mind of the spectator, as a construction and projection thrown as an image on a screen. This conviction emerged directly from the art school background of most of the LFMC filmmakers. Few of them were interested in feature films and they had no ambitions to enter the film or television industries. Film for them was primarily an art medium. Filmmaking had a series of acts or stages, each of which implied a new range of strategies, from shooting to printing and projecting. These could be DISTINGUISHED
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LONDON FILM-MAKERS’ CO-OPERATIVE CONSTITUTION, 1976 I. Principles A. The London Film-Makers’ Cooperative (hereafter referred to as the Co-op) is a voluntary organisation of film-makers dedicated to the production, distribution, and screening of independent, non-commercial films. The Co-op encourages the growth of a dynamic independent film culture in Great Britain. The Co-op is a non-profit organisation; any surplus income shall be reinvested in Coop activities and shall not be distributed among its members. II. Membership A. Membership in the Co-op is open to any interested individual upon receipt of a film for the library. Anyone becomes a member of the Co-op and is entitled to use the Co-op’s production/workshop facilities subject to approval by the Committee or its delegate (section III), upon payment of £5 per annum. B. Cinema screenings are open to Co-op members and the public, upon payment of a fee of £1 per annum. C. General Meetings of the membership shall be held at least twice per year; UK members shall be given at least 14 days notice of General Meetings by the Secretary. Extraordinary Meetings may be called by the Committee on the basis of a request by 3 members to the Committee. 25 members, or 30 of the London-based membership, constitutes a quorum for a General or Extraordinary Meeting. D. The membership is responsible for Co-op policy and may amend articles in sections II, III, IV by a 2/3 majority; with the exception of membership fees, which may be altered by a simple majority. E. The Co-op shall be dissolved only by a 9/10 majority at an Extraordinary Meeting called for that purpose. Any assets at the time of dissolution shall be devoted to projects with goals similar to those of the Co-op (section I). At such meetings, only foreign members can have a postal vote.
BRITISH ARTISTS’ FILM & VIDEO STUDY COLLECTION AT CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN
This new resource for scholars and curators is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Board, and is part of the Centre for British Film and Television Studies, directed by Professor Laura Mulvey of Birkbeck. The collection has two forms; a physical collection of tapes, still images and paper documentation, and an on-line database giving details of over 4,000 works by British artists1920-2000. The collection at Central St Martins holds over 600 VHS tapes – containing over 1,500 individual works. These include the Arts Council of England’s reference collection of work it funded, exhibition compilations from the Film & Video Umbrella, the former LEA and other organisations, off-air recordings and tapes donated by individual artists. The paper documentation includes over 500 artist files (writings by and about the artist) and collections of fliers and programme notes, film stills and posters. The research team is: Professor Malcolm Le Grice / David Curtis / Michael Mazière / Steven Ball. The database of artists and works will be online at www.pads.ahds.ac.uk from June 2002. To book study time contact email@example.com Further information the CSM site from www.research.linst.ac.uk/filmcentre/ British Artists’ Film & Video Study Collection, Room 203, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Southampton Row, London WC1B 4AP Tel +44 (0)20 7514 8159 Fax +44 (0)20 7514 7071
Top: Filmaktion group at Gallery House, 1973. Bottom left: Postcard from David Curtis to Peter Gidal, 1968. Bottom right: Peter Gidal, 1967.
combined to make a film or separated to “making films with projectors”. This was make an event. in the spirit of the Arts Labs, which hosted the LFMC until 1971, and where all There was no real equivalent to the psy- the art forms mingled promiscuously. chodrama at the LFMC. Psychodrama When film went off on its own it lost was a literary model and by contrast the much of that interaction, even as it develLFMC sprang directly from the visual oped a new independent ethos and proarts. The few exceptions are more playful duced, for the first time, a distinct group than traumatic, and include Bruce of LFMC filmmakers. Lacey’s ‘family’ films and the childlike humour of the films and performances of This new direction appeared in 1973 as Jeff Keen. After the short, intense lyri- ‘Filmaktion’, but was seeded three years cism of Alone and Moment, Stephen earlier by tutor Malcolm Le Grice at St Dwoskin turned to extended portraits Martins School of Art, where his students with a documentary touch. David included William Raban, Gill Eatherley, Larcher’s films are documentary-diaries Annabel Nicolson and Marilyn Halford. or personal travelogues, loosely struc- Around these circulated others from the tured and of long duration. Such tactics London art schools, such as John Du disrupt, even as they elicit, the spectator’s Cane, Chris Welsby, Jenny Okun and identification with the lure of the screen Anne Rees-Mogg. The purist, if not puriimage. Peter Gidal, more extremely, tan, elements in the structural avant-garde rejected psychodrama along with all cin- were not their only feature, as time now ema which denies its own illusionism. shows. Seen today, their strict forms also have more playful ingredients. The ‘room PLASTIC films’ of the time are revealing and movThe next generation (which included ing documents of typically spartan William Raban, Chris Welsby and domestic space. They include John Du Annabel Nicolson) came straight to film Cane’s Zoom Lapse, in which a window making from the art school studio. The art and kitchen table are densely superimschools were in a state of flux as waves of posed until they white-out; the deep new art hit them throughout the 1960’s, colour of John Smith’s Leading Light; from abstract expressionism to Pop. At and the glimpses of dailiness in David 2 the same time they kept up a studio tradi- Hall’s metrical Phased Time . Peter Gidal’s Hall is a canny example, drawing tion which went back to William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement of the the viewer by selective framing to iconic nineteenth century. This regime encour- photo pin-ups (Godard, the Rolling aged ‘hands-on’ direct experience and a Stones) and to simulacra for the film respect for materials. As older art forms itself as a projected sound-image event (a lost their appeal, under the impact of the desklamp, an intermittent door bell). mass media, some younger artists turned to film, video, sound and photography, which were largely free of high art associations, and modernist in their impersonal technology. Each was treated like any studio material, in the artisanal manner. Film, for example, could be hand-printed, stained, used as sculpture, or looped. It was literally a ‘plastic medium’, in the jargon of the Bauhaus, as well as a recording device. For this generation, led by Le Grice, the physical and as yet unexplored aspects of film were as important as its ability to make a representational image. Marilyn Halford, in such films as Footsteps (a cat and mouse game with the camera as pursuer) and Gill Eatherley’s light-play in Hand Grenade, also shared some of Annabel Nicolson’s unique insights into transience. Their insistence on the fragility of the image was differently developed by the 3 and 4 screen films of Le Grice, Raban and others, in which the projectors are moved and overlapped in the screening, or in which the filmmaker interacts with the movie. Nicolson read by flickering match-light (Precarious Vision). Le Grice created colour-layers by moving his arms and body in front of three projector beams (Horror Film), Raban measured screen space by pacing out the film as it was projected (Take Measure), Welsby constructed large scale installations of projectors in horizontal format (i.e. on their sides), to show panoramic shots of the sea (Shore Line). At one extreme, Welsby edited wholly ‘in camera’, using time-lapse and predetermined structure to reveal landscape as form and light. Le Grice similarly reviews landscape in such films as Whitchurch Down (Duration), but in a more intuitive and colourist way. Raban and Halford were turning to the urban scene in such films as Time Stepping, which alternates different axial views of an East London street, while East London itself was to become prime subject matter for another filmmaker, John Smith. From David Crosswaite’s Choke, a two-screen film of Piccadilly Circus with rock soundtrack, to Paul Botham’s Eiffel Trifle, the urban scene was part of the LFMC’s image bank, although the constant appeal of landscape was also a hallmark. Here, the LFMC filmmakers linked back to the story of British art and to its fusion of the empirical gaze with the new scientific meteorology in the nineteenth century. Just as in that earlier meeting of Constable’s eye with scientific topography, so in the 1970’s a painterly understanding of light and form met up with the mechanical apparatus of camera and printer. The romantic vein in this tradition continues with Larcher’s epic scale films, which celebrate the same interaction of the eye and the machine to expand sight. In 1975, the critic Deke Dusinberre posited a distinct ‘landscape tendency’ in the British avant-garde, and he curated a series of screenings at the Tate to prove his point. He connected landscape film to the art of John Hilliard, Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, who had indeed emerged EXTREME from the same art college and concept art background as the LFMC. After almost a decade of process-led films, the image was back. In some ways this extended the field of what Le Grice and Gidal had called ‘structural-materialism’ in the early 1970s. Gidal coined this distinctive term for the direction taken by British filmmakers towards a politics of vision, or of film as a critique of optical sensation. But these two leading and gifted filmmakers were in some ways also pulling in different directions. Le Grice eventually embraced Frampton’s ‘spectre of narrative’, and his vision has always been of the expansive sort. Gidal’s modernism was of the other kind: paring down and minimalizing the image, so that each frame resists the lure of unity and possession. His films are a running critique of their own viewing conditions, and internalise their pictorial codes, just as his mentor Samuel Beckett made loops of words and speeches to sideline the power of language to refer. In the art school tradition of the LFMC filmmakers, language as such was treated warily. Dialogue and voice-over were associated with mainstream drama and documentary. They rarely appeared until late in the 1970s, notably in Lis Rhodes’ invocation of a ‘woman’s voice’ in Light Reading, (1979). Sound was disrupted and looped by Le Grice in Castle One and Reign of the Vampire, but much of the work made at the LFMC was characteristically visual and often silent. Anthony McCall and Annabel Nicolson explored primary projection, Marilyn Halford and Guy Sherwin combined projection with performance, Ian Kerr and Lis Rhodes made films in live projection by drawing and scraping on them as they passed through the lens. Most elaborate were Welsby’s gallery installations for multiscreen seascape films with text, charts and documents of the location. Ron Haselden also created large-scale gallery works with looped projection and contrasts between still and moving images. The Festival of Expanded Cinema at the ICA in 1976 revealed a whole new generation that included Steve Farrer, Bob Fearns, Chris Garratt, Rob Gawthrop, Nicky Hamlyn and many more. A similar impulse to direct making lay behind the ‘expanded’ use of media in the early LFMC. The Bolex camera, which had been developed as a relatively lightweight news gathering instrument, was a versatile vision machine. Its engineering produced a new kind of cinema as filmmakers adapted its technology to their own devices. Springwound action, turret lenses and variable focus, rewind, overlaps, timed dissolves, autoaction, removing the lens, swinging the camera in the air and single framing appeared in many films. Such options for film vision, set free from the human-centred eye, were taken up by LFMC filmmakers in films like Lensless, Zoom Lapse, Knee High, Clockwise (Accept No Substitute), Shepherd’s Bush, River Yar, Colour Separation, Focus and Room Film. The literalness of these titles is striking. They name the process by which the film was made, or the location where it was shot. The content of the film can be deduced from its self-descriptive title, an idea also found in modernist painting and music. The films made at the LFMC were not the whole story. It took part in international festivals in London (1970 and 1973) and abroad, while Peter Gidal and John Du Cane publicised the LFMC and related National Film Theatre screenings from 1972-75 with regular reviews in Time Out. From the middle to late seventies the LFMC attracted the cautious interest of Screen, then the leading UK journal of film theory. Gidal and Le Grice were persuasive and sophisticated voices in intellectual debate and in raising funds from the Arts Council and the British Film Institute. Through the Independent Filmmakers’ Association, founded in 1974 as a forum for filmmakers and theorists, the LFMC was part of a chain of campaigning workshops like the Berwick Street Collective (founded 1970), Cinema Action (founded 1968), Four Corners IMPULSE (founded 1973) and the Film Work Group (founded 1974). These and other factions also met and tangled at the RCA Film School, where Gidal and Dwoskin both taught from 1973, along with theorists Noel Burch and Jorge Dana. Different versions of film semiotics, experimentation and politics were hammered out. Gidal’s citation of Brecht ‘against representation’ was countered by the Brechtian ‘alienation effect’ in the drama films of Straub-Huillet. Both were critical of ‘visual pleasure’ in the conventional sense, but where Gidal turned to fragmentation and enigma, the political groups adopted the long-take and spoken text to disengage the viewer from the film spectacle. The more visual and celebratory side of the LFMC, including Le Grice’s lyrical colour films, eventually had an effect on the commercial world, which most of its members would have rejected had they known of it. This was its impact, both direct and oblique, on TV advertising and rock videos, whose language of rapid cutting is largely imitated from the avantgarde, up to the present day. David Sylvester was one of the rare art critics who saw (and approved) this way of spreading the modernist message. For television, plagiarism is necessary. Similarly, LFMC expanded cinema long precedes the current enthusiasm for installation and projection art, but is rarely acknowledged. In part, this is due to a split between filmmakers and other artists which still persists. The LFMC itself had only the loosest alliance with video makers and other media artists. Consequently, London Video Arts (later London Electronic Arts) was founded in 1976 as a separate group. Video had been profiled at the Serpentine Gallery in 1975, and then at the Tate in 1976. It was already developing distinct concerns of its own, from real-time viewing to television ‘interventions’ and gallery space. VISUAL
provided by the film-maker, who retains complete ownership of the print. Films may be withdrawn from the library at any time, subject to prior booking arrangements made through the Co-op. C. Film-makers shall receive 70% of all rental fees on each of their films; the Co-op shall retain 30% of rental fees to cover distribution costs. Payments will be made to filmmakers on a semi-annual basis, unless otherwise requested. D. The Committee shall endeavour to keep distribution lists up to date through supplements or re-issue of the distribution catalogue.
LUX is a new organisation formed to continue the work of its predecessors; The London III. Administration Filmmakers Co-op, London Electronic A. Co-op policy and programmes Arts/London Video Access and The Lux shall be administered by a Committee accountCentre. able to the membership at General and Based around a unique collection of artists’ film Extraordinary meetings. B. The Committee shall be elected and video work LUX seeks to promote and supannually from the membership; it shall consist port contemporary and historical artists’ movof at least five members, including a ing image work as well as the artists that make Chairperson, a Treasurer, and a Secretary. it through distribution, exhibition, publishing General membership only can appoint and dis- and research. miss staff. For more details contact: C. The Committee shall oversee the LUX, 3rd Floor, 18 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EZ, UK daily operation of the production/workshop London +44 (0)207 503 3980, facilities, the distribution library, and the tel: fax: +44 (0)7092 111413 screening programme. e m a i l : i n f o @ l u x . o r g . u k D. The Treasurer shall present an web: www.lux.org.uk audited statement of all Co-op accounts to a General meeting not less than once per year. SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT E. Minutes of all Committee meetings shall be available from the Co-op offices Curator: Mark Webber to any member upon request. Lux: Benjamin Cook, Mike Sperlinger, Jam Tidy IV. Regulations A. All members complying with sec- Project Management: Lucy Reynolds tion II A shall have access to the produc- Project Assistants: Travis Miles, Milena tion/workshop facilities as administered by the Michalski-Gow Technical Consultant: David Leister Committee, or its delegate(s). B. Films in the Co-op library shall Projection: Chloë Stewart, Greg Pope be made available for rental at rates deter- Website: Gregory Kurcewicz mined by the film-maker; all prints shall be Design: Rachel Reupke Advisory Panel: David Curtis, Senior Research Fellow, Central Saint Martin’s School of Art Michael O’Pray, Reader in Film, University of East London A.L. Rees, Senior Research Fellow, Royal College of Art Simon Field, Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam Chrissie Iles, Film and Video Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art Arts Council of England: Gary Thomas British Council: Paul Howson and Satwant Gill BFI: Heather Stewart Esmée Fairbairn Foundation: David Littler AHRB British Artists’ Film & Video Study Centre: David Curtis New prints and film restoration/preservation: NFTVA / BFI Donor Access: Shona Barratt Soho Images: Len Thornton, Ray Slater Creative Film Services: Terry MacCallam Thanks to all the filmmakers and other people who lived through all this and shared their memories and collections with us. We are extremely grateful to Christophe Bichon & Loic Diaz-Ronda (Lightcone), Deke Dusinberre, William Fowler, James Grauerholz & WSB Communications, Ron Haselden, Lisa Le Feuvre, Barry Miles, Karen Mirza, Peter Mudie, Laura Mulvey, MM Serra (New York Film-Makers’ Cooperative), John Wyver. We appreciate the continued support of the following: Sophie Howarth, Andrew Brighton, William Rallison, Jon Lewis (Tate Modern) Yann Beauvais (Scratch Projections) Anne Demy-Geroe (BIFF) Fabienne Nicholas (Experimenta) Margaret Samai (FTIWA) Vivienne Gaskin (CCA) Stefanie SchultStrathaus (FDK) Claes Karlsson (Kulturhuset) Peter Pakesch (Kunsthalle Basel) Núria Enguita & Núria Homs (Fundaçio Antoní Tapies) Juan Guardiola (Artium) Carlos Adriano (Babushka) Ruben Guzman (Museo Nacional de Bellas Arte) Jim Sinclair (Vancouver Cinematheque) Alex MacKenzie (Blinding Light) Steve Anker (SF Cinematheque) Kathy Geritz (PFA) Benjamin Weil & Nathalie Dubuc (SFMoMA) Mark Rance (Film Forum) Abina Manning (Video Data Bank) John Mhiripiri & Jonas Mekas (Anthology Film Archives) Vicki Lewis & Sune Nordgren (Baltic) Linda Pariser (Cornerhouse) Caroline Collier & Michael Prior (Arnolfini) Josephine Lanyon (Picture This) Ikeda Hiroyuki (Image Forum) Tom Birchenhough (British Council) Interview tapes transcribed by Diane Beddoes, Helen Eger, William Fowler, Rebecca Gamble, Darren Green, Gregory Kurcewicz, Roz Leach, Milena Michalski, Travis Miles, Lupe Nuñez-Fernandez, Heike Seidler, Jo Shaw, Mike Sperlinger, Denise Webber, Mark Webber, Cassie Yukawa Shoot Shoot Shoot is a Lux project www.lux.org.uk Shoot Shoot Shoot website and online research facility at www.lfmc.org Shoot Shoot Shoot broadsheet copyright Lux. First edition, May 2002.
Dear Sir I am a basket stacker at the Basingstoke Co-operative Supermarket. Four times a year, one of my duties is to collect the un-opened copies of SIGHT AND SOUND from all the other sales girls. We send these to under-developed countries for use as toilet tissue (although the paper is not really absorbent enough, it does help to ease our consciences a little). This quarter there was not a single copy left in the box on delivery day. I only understood why when Polly Griddle (on check-out) ran up to me excitedly with her little virgin pages bared for the first time in many years: “They have something about real films this time,” she said. Of course I did not believe her at first, but there it was, an article (four full pages) on the Independent Avant-Garde Festival by Tony Rainbow. Yes! even written by someone who knows about it. You can imagine the ecstasy that filled our shop for at least an hour or two. However we mellowed a little when we realised what depravation would be caused in South America if SIGHT AND SOUND were to make a habit of paying attention to this kind of cinema.
The aim was not just formal. By challenging the ways in which film representation appears, the viewer is made aware of the process by which the image is coded. The visual illusion is transformed into an experience of time. New structures explore and question the passive role of the cinema spectator, and look to a participatory rather than semi-hypnotic state of viewing. Each of these goals brought the film avant-garde close to the growing conceptual art movement in the late sixties and early seventies, characterised by “lists, grids, catalogues, counting games and random procedures” (Peter Wollen). These ideas, at the margin of the arts, were an alternative to official culture, cinema language and its power to manipulate the audience. In an early film, Castle One, Le Grice used found footage of industrial labour and of politicians to show that film is a social object or construct. No image is neutral, in this view. A flashing light bulb in front of the screen also means that “the awareness of the audience is returned to the actual situation (watching a film) by reference to the bulb and the perceptual problem which its flashing creates” (Malcolm Le Grice). Some of these and other deconstructive ideas entered the LFMC orbit from concept art. This diverse movement included many artists who made films, notably Ian Breakwell, David Dye and Tony Sinden. Most were born in the early 1940’s, and were part of a generation that also included Le Grice, David Curtis, Derek Jarman and David Hall (the founder of British video art who was at this time a filmmaker and sculptor). For Dwoskin, Gidal and Larcher, film was their major medium, while others crossed media barriers into live performance and installation art. On the south coast, Jeff Keen, Jim Duke and Tony Sinden founded the Acme Generating Co. for expanded cinema and performances in 1967. In 1969-70, Le Grice and his students made ‘pre-production’ films, or what David Curtis called
Twenty years later, the LFMC and LEA finally merged in the Lux Centre. The Lux closed after five years in 2001, but the film collection and key workshop facilities remain open as a holding operation. In this sense, with several hundred members as well as an extensive distribution archive of classic and new work, the LFMC has not yet vanished. Its history was made up of such crises. Commenting on the period of the structural film in the early 1970’s, David Curtis wrote, “for me its rigour is inextricable from the physical deprivation of the Prince of Wales Crescent building”. At an all time financial low, he adds, the LFMC was only held together by Gidal’s and Le Grice’s Yours faithfully, “will to survive”. It was under these conditions that genuinely new ideas emerged. MARY LOU GRACE From LFMC experimentation sprang a kind of filmmaking which was related to but finally distinct from the contemporary films of Gilbert and George, Gordon Matta-Clark and Marcel Broodthaers, to take a random sample of artists. In their cases, film extended or documented their practice in other media, as it still does for artists from Bruce Nauman to Tacita Dean. The LFMC - in the spirit of Deren and Brakhage as it happens - was committed to film as an independent art form. The conditions of making and projecting the film were taken to be internal aspects of the art form, to be investigated as its major content. Here it led film way beyond its key aspects as a document or a record, let alone a narrative. The LFMC had little interest in the mainstream cinema, except perhaps to oppose it. Most of its films descend in a straight line from Lumière and Méliès, bypassing the narrative cinema. It opened the gates for all kinds of experimental filmmaking that explode the classic rules of cinema. This was far from the intention at the time, but from the mid-1960’s the LFMC was laying out the basic map we all still use in time-based media. New roles were explored for maker, for viewer and for the space - the viewing space, be it cinema or installation, live performance or film projection - which stands between them.
TEN YEARS OF BRITISH AVANT-GARDE FILM A DOCUMENTARY Taking its cue from the 2002 retrospective programme of British avant-garde film 1966-1976, SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT relates the story of the first decade of the London Film-makers’ Coop. Key participants in the closely intertwined stories of the Co-op and British experimental film in these years reflect on the successes (and failures) of a radical project to imagine a new kind of cinema: new ways of distributing work, new forms of exhibition and, crucially, new kinds of images and sounds. Participants include Stephen Dwoskin, David Dye, Gill Eatherley, Peter Gidal, Malcolm Le Grice, Annabel Nicolson, William Raban and Guy Sherwin; the film’s consultant is David Curtis. Clips of many of the key films, performances and installations are also featured.
SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT is available for retail or institutional sale or hire from Louise Machin at Illuminations. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 20 7288 8409; more details at © 2002 A.L.Rees. www.illumin.co.uk.
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